Charlotte Richter | Staff Writer
The Leavenworth Senior High school Junior ROTC Raider teams returned victorious with 12 trophies from the 2021 U.S. Army Raider Nationals competition in Molena, Ga. Nov. 4 to Nov. 7. The LHS JROTC female-division team won first overall to be named the top Raider team in the nation. The LHS JROTC male-division team placed second in the overall competition.
LHS brought 62 cadets to compete in the male, female and co-ed divisions against 92
other teams, which included military academies from around the country. Teams are
composed of 14 students, but only 10 cadets compete in each event allowing for more strategic competition.
Schools compete for the best time in five different events. Each school also has one
male and one female cadet compete for the title of Ultimate Raider.
Competition events included the gauntlet, where teams move items through a series
of obstacles including walls and tunnels; a five-kilometer race known as the mountain run; a sprint through the physical team test; one-rope bridge construction; and
cross-country rescue. Female-division team JROTC Coach Mary Schwartz said team
times on each event were full minutes faster than in previous years.
Cadet Capt. Jessie Lamb, female team commander, said she knew they were on the way
to a win after the five-kilometer race.
“We were doing great on all the other times and during the 5K; though I had a lot
of doubt in myself, I was doing well and that just encouraged me more, so I’d help others
out. It’s all about motivating them, telling them they’re good, telling them their worth,”
Schwartz said the girls’ team has competed together at Raider Nationals since many of the cadets were freshmen. She said the team’s biggest improvement is how they communicate with each other, which she credited as a large factor in their win.
“I’ve watched them develop from this tiny team to these women who know how to communicate together to reach one goal.” Schwartz said LHS JROTC Raiders are also
supportive of the other competitors because they want to be remembered as the team that wants everyone to be at their best.
On top of the overall win, the girls’ team also placed first in all of the events except the
cross-country rescue, in which they placed second. By event, the boys’ team placed first
in the five-kilometer race, third in the rope bridge, and fifth in the other three events.
The LHS JROTC co-ed team placed ninth out of 29 teams in their division, and Sophia
Rebeshini placed fourth in the Ultimate Raider competition as the LHS female representative.
Cadet Captain Jesse Purvis, male team commander, has competed at nationals since
his sophomore year of high school, but this year he said he was able to see more opportunities for his team from a leadership position.
“For the male team, we were very focused on self-improvement, which is really unique
for a high school sports team, where you have 14 guys who all want to get as good as they can in something. As one really big team, we were all very encouraging and positive toward each other during the competition,” Purvis said.
Cadet Capt. David Drake recalled his team’s experience with the one-rope bridge.
“We crossed onto that island in the river, and when we tore down our rope and the time
stopped, we saw our first sergeant just yelling and screaming ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ In that moment the boys got all fired up because we knew that we had done really well,” Drake said. “That feeling of knowing but not knowing at the same time is something I’ll remember.”
Drake said support and training helped the teams prepare for and excel at the competition.
“For me, something I really remember is how supportive the cadre are and how they
take these really objectively simple tasks that we’re asked to perform for time, and they
break it down to every meticulous part and we train, and we train and we train and it be-
comes a fluid motion,” Drake said.
Despite individual and division wins, the JROTC coaches said that the whole team wins
“We’re fighting every day to be the best,” said retired 1st Sgt. Wayne Cogdill, boys’ team
coach. “Now that the whole team is national champions, we’re beyond proud.”
The teams and coaches also attribute their success to the support the JROTC teams
receive from parents and members of the Leavenworth community.