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Precision and teamwork: Tenets of competition hundreds of cadets were trying to meet in Hardin County this weekend as they competed in challenging academic, marksmanship and drill contests hosted by the 7th Brigade of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.
The competition was held at John Hardin High School, North Hardin High School and North Park Elementary School and pitted more than 54 teams from schools in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
John Hardin, Central Hardin and Fort Knox High School competed in the event. North Hardin was absent because the school played host, said Lee Redmon, a JROTC training and education technician.
Members of Fort Knox High School male color guard marched Saturday through their routine, which included uncasing of the colors and choreographed sequences with rifles that required a steady hand and careful coordination.
After their performance, the four-person guard said they still need to work out some kinks, particularly on casing of colors.
“I feel like I could’ve done better,” Maj. Andre Wingate said. The unit was rounded out by Cpt. Michael Mertz, 1st Lt. Shane Duncan and 1st Lt. Adrian Franqui.
Wingate said they practice for a week to hone the routine. Admitting it was not their best performance Saturday, Wingate expected the group to use the flaws as motivation for the future.
John Hardin’s male and female color guards took the stage at North Hardin High School shortly thereafter, supported by a rousing cheering section pleased with both performances.
Lorie Hargis, mother of Lt. Col. Matt Hargis, said the group jelled for a seamless performance.
“That’s the best I’ve ever seen them do and I’ve been watching them for four years,” she said.
Lorie Hargis said her son and his fellow cadets are committed to their performances, practicing about three times a week. The team is rounded out by Staff Sgt. Codey Fisher, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Kitson and 1st Sgt. Dominique Pitts.
“They put a lot of time into it,” she said.
Matt Hargis agreed with those who said it was their best performance, saying they had finally put all of the elements together they were working to perfect during their practices.
“I think we did extremely well,” he said.
Maj. Shanice Hollings, commander of John Hardin’s female color guard, also was pleased with her team’s showing. Only together for about two weeks, she called it a remarkable turnaround for such a fledgling partnership.
“I feel like we did better than we have in the past,” she said.
Hollings was joined in the competition by Staff Sgt. Shylayne Southard, Sgt. 1st Class Cheryl Parry and 1st Lt. Alana Westover.
Central Hardin competed in a number of exhibition drills Sunday, including individual and duals competitions.
Sunday’s drills were steeped in creativity as groups performed freestyle acrobatic tricks with their rifles and others performed comedy routines to show their range. Redmon said there is a considerable dropoff in schools Sunday because a higher level of precision is needed to compete.
Command Sgt. Maj. Cameron Chapman, who competed in both the individual and duals competition for Central Hardin, ran into a brief scare as he took a few blows to the head from his rifle during an individual routine.
Shaking out the cobwebs, he said he did well on the complex sections.
“I was messing up on the easy things, but nervousness gets the best of all of us,” he said.
His fellow cadets and some Central Hardin supporters congratulated him, telling him he kept his “military demeanor” despite the head shots.
Chapman and his partner in the duals competition, Sgt. Dustin Taylor, were less optimistic about the later performance. Chapman said they decided to make some last-minute changes that damaged their rhythm, causing them to make mistakes.
Taylor, visibly aggravated afterward, said he was battling frustration during the routine because he felt he should be performing better. At one point, a gun Chapman tossed to him slipped through his fingers.
Chapman said nerves also played a role in the duals performance, but he issued a competitive warning.
“They better be ready for us,” he said. “We’re going to place next year.”
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.