MANATEE COUNTY — Four years of hard work have come to an end for seniors in Braden River High School’s JROTC program — but not without great reward.
A sign outside the door of the JROTC room at Braden River High School sums it up: “Went. Fought. Won.” On Dec. 5, Braden River’s Mixed and Girls Raiders teams came home as state champions, taking first overall at the State Raider Meet in Lake Wales.
“This is the best group of kids I’ve worked with in 11 years of teaching,” said Sgt. Maj. Matt Collis, who overseas Braden River’s JROTC Raiders program. “It’s a cadet-led program, and they train themselves.”
Raiders teams compete in five categories: a physical training test consisting of two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of curl-ups and a one-mile run; an obstacle course in which competitors must carry 40-pound packs through a two-mile course with walls and a low crawl; a rope bridge exercise; a first-aid litter (stretcher) carry; and land navigation.
The Mixed team, led by 18-year old Tyler Connell, placed first in every category except the litter carry, in which they placed third.
The Girls team, led by senior Laci Richardson, took first place in physical training, second in the litter carry and third in both the obstacle course and land navigation.
Connell and team members Dylan Bickford and Marina Edwards took first, second and third place individually in the curl-ups competition.
The Raiders teams began practicing two weeks before school started in preparation for the coming year and continued with a grueling exercise schedule to prepare for competition.
And now, all the work has paid off.
“It’s the perfect ending to four years of hard work,” Richardson said. “(Our Raiders team) really has become like a second family.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
At the state meet, Sarasota Military Academy’s Men’s Raiders team placed first overall. On its eight-member team were two East County residents — John “Jack” Conion and Michael Martino. The teens also were nominated by Congressman Vern Buchanan for appointment to U.S. military academies.