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Local cadets tested their mettle against schools from several states this weekend.
Roughly a dozen Kentucky Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps drill teams competed in the Sgt. Maj. Paul C. Gray JROTC Invitational Drill, Marksmanship and Academic Championships in Radcliff Saturday and Sunday.
The competition is organized annually by Army Cadet Command’s 7th Brigade, which oversees junior and senior ROTC programs in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
In its seventh year, the competition is named in honor of Sgt. Maj. Paul C. Gray, who started the Army JROTC drill competition at North Hardin High School, which hosts the competition. In addition to drills, the event features an air rifle marksmanship competition at John Hardin High School and an academic competition at North Park Elementary School.
Retired Lt. Col. Roland Haun, senior Army instructor at Central Hardin High School, said the competition is one of the stiffest tests his cadets will face.
“We attend several drill meets every year,” Haun said. “This is by far the best one, the toughest competition.”
A wave of cadets were wrapping up a day’s work Saturday, taking the short trolley ride to North Hardin after finishing its nine-member squad drill performance at North Park.
Haun said he was pleased with the way Central Hardin’s first team performed, especially considering the group is comprised of freshmen and sophomores.
“I’m extremely happy with how well they did,” he said.
Master Sgt. Martin Fawbush, Army instructor at Central Hardin, agreed and said the youth of the team has not held them back as they have stepped up and performed.
Fawbush said the team has performed well throughout the season. They finished in the top three at several meets, including competitions in Dayton, Ohio, Eastern Kentucky University and Pulaski County in eastern Kentucky, and has yet to finish behind a Kentucky school in any meet this year, Fawbush said.
Zach Kreider, Central Hardin cadet battalion commander, said one area of improvement he noticed on Saturday was the team’s confidence. Prior to drill inspections, some of the members grow nervous, he said. Once it is time to perform, though, practice and routine take over.
Kreider said his team typically practices three days a week but practices the entire week before competition.
Later in the day, the energetic quartet making up the female color guard for John Hardin High School took to the hardwood of North Hardin’s auxiliary gym, running through a solid routine that earned high praise from instructors and fellow cadets.
Once finishing and stepping into the sunshine, the group was relaxed and confident with their routine with one member noting that it was the best they’ve ever performed.
Cadet Jessica Rodriguez laughed and said she wanted to work on controlling her facial expressions and make sure she avoids smirking during performances.
Cadet J’Anna Jones, meanwhile, said she needs to make sure to “call everything on the right foot and just have fun.”
Cadet Chantal Freisens summed up the group’s perspective.
“Practice makes perfect and don’t stress out about it,” she said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.