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East County Wednesday, Apr. 7, 2021 1 week ago

Braden River High School knows its drill

Braden River High School Pirate Battalion Drill Team wins district championship for fifth year in a row and heads to state.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

The Braden River High School Pirate Battalion Drill Team has been working toward this season since the pandemic began last March.

Sgt. Maj. Alex Figueroa knew the season wouldn’t be like any other and wanted his cadets to be prepared.

Whether it’s wearing masks, having the female and male teams practice every other day rather than every day or not having platoons, the team has had to make adjustments.

But the team didn’t allow the change to stop it from winning its fifth consecutive Area 5 Regional JROTC Drill Team Championship on March 27 at Bayshore High School in Bradenton.

“It’s kind of unbelievable just seeing where we started and how we just had to rework our entire season,” said Selah Swanson, a senior and battalion commander. “It felt at times each practice felt like forever, but you see how it shows in the awards we get and not even that but just by how much we beat the other teams.”

Swanson said the dedication and discipline instilled in the team each year has led to the team being able to see success at the Area 5 Regional JROTC Drill Team Championship.

“[Figueroa] is bringing the same leaders up every single year, teaching us discipline, showing us that that makes a difference,” Swanson said. “It makes a big gap between our school and other schools, so that’s just been super rewarding.”

The Armed Squad goes through its routine at the district championship at Bayshore High School. Courtesy photo.

Unlike past years when the team would travel to George Jenkins High School in Lakeland for the state championship, the team will have to record its routines April 10 at Braden River High School and submit the video for judging.

The team is treating the recording as if it’s the actual competition, meaning the units will run their drills once and submit the video rather than recording the drill until it’s perfect before submitting.

“If we mess up, we mess up; that’s the video we’re sending in,” Swanson said. “I think that’s a good example to the younger kids that it’s not about winning. It’s about showing integrity and discipline. All of those values are still more important than just the state championship.”

Philip Staffiles, a senior and a commander, said recording the drill at their own high school will lessen the pressure of being at a state competition because the team members won’t see the judges in front of them.

Swanson agreed.

“You’re not seeing other schools walking around,” Swanson said. “It’s just us. We know what we’re comfortable with. We just have to go out there and do it like we do every single day out there.”

Alexis Diamond, Taylor Keesler, Selah Swanson and Ealyna Andrews compete at the district championship at Bayshore High School. Courtesy photo.

Swanson said one of the biggest challenges the team has faced is keeping everyone motivated, especially the freshmen and sophomores.

The team couldn’t have platoons this year due to the platoons having more than 10 students, which was the limit for group size due to COVID-19 protocols.

Not having platoons means there aren’t as many opportunities for freshmen and sophomore cadets to participate in competitions.

As a result, the team decided to have a special competition for the freshmen and sophomores to compete against one another to give them an opportunity to showcase what they’ve been working on all season.

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