Adairsville High School's storied JROTC Raiders program is off to a winning start for the 2019 season.The male and female teams won overall first place in their divisions while the mixed team came in …
Adairsville High School's storied JROTC Raiders program is off to a winning start for the 2019 season.
The male and female teams won overall first place in their divisions while the mixed team came in fourth place at the largest Adairsville Raider Rampage ever Saturday at AHS.
"We have hosted a Raider meet every year since 2012," Army instructor 1st Sgt. Jerry Queen said. "I think the first meet we had less than 20 teams; this year, we had 54 teams from 24 schools from Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee. We estimate there were over 1,200 people on campus Saturday."
Queen said the competition has "grown every year since we started so I was not surprised" that it had the largest turnout ever this year.
"We work hard to put a good, competitive competition together, and JROTC instructors respect that," he said, noting the new JROTC program at Cartersville High School made its competition debut at the meet. "It is, arguably, the toughest competition in the state."
At their inaugural contest of the season, AHS's 12-member male team, commanded by senior Steven Lynch, and female team, led by senior Mallory Woodall, dominated their divisions, each winning five out of the six events.
The male team won the top spot out of 24 teams while the female team defeated 11 other teams to win its division.
"Those teams have a lot of experience and are off to a great start," Queen said. "They performed as expected on our home turf."
The 12-member mixed team, headed by senior Camden Milton, came in fourth overall in its 18-team division after finishing with two third places, three fourth places and a 10th place.
"There were a few really good mixed teams at our meet — Mariner High School out of Florida, Georgia Military College and Alexander High School," Queen said. "To defeat every team except those three is impressive."
Senior Army instructor Maj. David Sexauer said his teams' greatest strength is "our ability to work as a high-performing team."
"That teamwork is cadet-focused and due to the outstanding cadet leaders within our program," he said.
Lynch, 17, was excited about his team winning its division on their home turf.
"It’s a great feeling," he said. "Winning a first place is always a great feeling, but to do it at our home meet and with the amount of competition that was there, it was extra-special."
He also said he felt like he and his teammates "performed as well as we could on Saturday."
"Everyone did their job, and we didn’t make any huge mistakes," he said.
Woodall said taking the overall top spot at the competition "felt amazing, just as any other win would feel."
"I wouldn’t have expected anything less from the team, especially seeing as we were on home field," she said. "I look forward to the upcoming meets to really put us in perspective of where we stand as a team."
The 17-year-old commander said her team's performance on Saturday "went exceptionally well for the first meet of the season."
"Our newer team members adapted really well when it came to working under pressure and strategizing with the team," she said. "However, there is always room for improvement, and we plan to do so throughout the season."
At the Raider Rampage, teams competed in the 2.1-mile Team Run, Cross Country Rescue, Gauntlet, Tire Flip and Carry, Obstacle Course and Rope Bridge.
AHS's male team — made up of four seniors, four juniors and four sophomores — and female team — consisting of one senior, four juniors, six sophomores and one freshman — won every event except the run, where they both came in third place.
The mixed team, which has five seniors, three juniors and four sophomores, placed third in Obstacle Course and Rope Bridge; fourth in Cross Country Rescue, Gauntlet and Tire Flip; and 10th in Team Run.
The Top 3 finishers in each division were Adairsville, Benedictine Military Academy in Savannah and Osborne High School in Marietta in the male division; Adairsville, Osborne and Campbell High School in Smyrna in the female division; and Mariner Leadership Academy, Georgia Military College and Alexander High School in Douglasville in the mixed division.
While AHS had three teams competing, it actually had five teams totaling 52 cadets at the competition. Two of the teams — mixed team 2, led by sophomore Diego Carrillo, and male team 2, led by junior Harrison Smith — are "developmental and was only competing for experience," Queen said.
"We had so many young kids come out for Raiders that we decided to add a freshman male team and a second mixed team," he said, noting five teams is the most the program has ever had at one time. "We wanted to give them an opportunity to train for another month and compete in a competition. After the meet, we had to go back down to three teams."
Sexauer said his teams are "off to a great start but realize there is much to improve" before the national championships in Molena in November if the female Tigers expect to bring home their second consecutive national title and if the male Tigers hope to beat their second-place finish at nationals last year.
"We approach each week as a training opportunity that will pay off in higher fitness levels and technical expertise in the events," he said. "Conditioning and depth of talent is key so we can achieve peak team performance at nationals. As long as our cadets seek daily improvement and stay focused, we will be in a position to challenge the best teams in the nation two months from now."
Queen agreed with Sexauer's assessment.
"The female team is starting to come together but have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be," he said. "They have some tough competition facing them, but I feel they have the potential to win it all again this year."
The male Raiders team is returning with "a lot of talent from last year's team, and I have very high expectations for them," Queen said.
"This team is full of high-character kids that work hard at everything they do, including the classroom," he said. "The average GPA on this team is 3.7. This team lost nationals by two seconds last year, and nine of these boys were on that team so they are focused, determined and better than they were last year so we will see."
Woodall and Lynch also like their teams' chances of winning it all this year.
"I believe this team has a great chance of making it to nationals," Lynch said. "We have great instructors and a lot of guys that have been there before and know what it takes to make it to that level."
"There’s no doubt that we can make it to nationals and do well, but to really achieve what we are hoping to, we still have some improving to do," Woodall said. "Overall, I think that we will be a very competitive team this year when the time comes."
The AHS Raiders will be competing in five more meets this season — Saturday at Dawson County High School, Sept. 21 at North Paulding High School, Sept. 28 at Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, the Oct. 12 state qualifier at AHS and Oct. 19 at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville — before moving on to the state championships Oct. 26 at Spalding High School in Griffin and, hopefully, the national championships Nov. 2-3 at Gerald Lawhorn Scouting Base in Molena.