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Braden River High School heads for state drill team championships

Braden River High 's drill team wins six consecutive district title.

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It would appear winning has become routine for Braden River High's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps drill team, which won its sixth consecutive Area 5 District Drill Team Championship March 5 at Riverview High School.

But any routine established by the Pirates might be better explained as discipline learned by example.

“It starts all the way back to the seniors who trained (us)," senior Imran Sandhu said. "Now we're training all these underclassmen, to try to get them up to speed so they can train the future cadets."

Elayna Andrews, Adonna Wharton, Aurora Skuba, and Julianna Chupp practice marching as the color guard.
Elayna Andrews, Adonna Wharton, Aurora Skuba, and Julianna Chupp practice marching as the color guard.

Braden River High JROTC Instructor Alexander Figueroa, who prefers to step back and let his team leaders do much of the coaching, sets high expectations for his cadets. The Pirates have claimed 29 state championships in various categories since 2008.

“I tell the kids at the beginning of the year, ‘Our goal is to get to the state championship, and I'll see you there,'" Figueroa said. "Even though we are just starting, they have the potential to get there."

Once again, the program is getting to the state championships, which will be held April 2 at George Jenkins High School in Lakeland.

Figueroa said a key to the program's success has been relying on the students to coach each other.

Senior Tania Cortez said she is proud that she is considered a quality leader to the underclassmen. “Freshmen tend to look up to you,” she said of her role. “They come to know you personally and they ask for advice."

“It’s easy to relate to people in charge, because students are in charge of everything,” Senior Julianna Chupp said. “It feels a lot easier to talk to people about problems."

The nature of the competition places importance on the fact that no one person on the team is more important than another.

"If one person's off, the entire team looks off," senior Elayna Andrews said. "You need to work together. 'This individual needs to hit the pivot more.'"

Braden River has finished in the top five teams at the state tournament in each of the last six years.

"Where we finish in the top five, depends on how we work together as a team,” Figueroa said.

Braden River's students credit their repeated success to a culture of discipline within JROTC that prompts the cadets to live up to the values they are taught.

Cristal Trejo Andablo said prior to joining JROTC, she didn’t possess the organizational abilities she does today. “I learned how to how to balance my life," she said. "Now I’m more organized."

She also has become a leader and she is proud she helped lead her teammates to the state tournament.

The team members say their discipline is an integral part of the team's identity. Sandhu said every member that comes through the program wants to match the success of past teams.

“It's a legacy,” Figueroa said. “All our seniors have been district champions since they were freshmen. So, they are building upon that legacy. It takes commanders (team captains) to organize them and unity in (each group). Drill is about discipline, and how everybody works together and listens."

The Pirates overwhelmed the competition at the district championships, winning the color guard, unarmed platoon, armed platoon, exhibition armed squad and exhibition armed platoon divisions as well as the individual exhibition and dual exhibition categories.

Andrews joined with Adonna Wharton to win the dual exhibition title and Andrews also claimed the individual exhibition class as well. She also led the exhibition armed platoon team to the victory.


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