North JROTC Raiders repeat as national champions
Last year the North Fort Myers High School JROTC Raiders set the bar at the JROTC Raider National Championships.
This year they lifted it higher.
Facing 38 other teams in the mixed division – including many from military academies or schools located near military bases – the Red Knights brought home the gold once again at the event held Nov. 4 in Molena, Ga.
North competed in five timed events: the obstacle course, cross country rescue, rope bridge, the 5K team run and the physical team test, achieving the lowest score.
The second-place team was from Leavenworth, Kan., outside of Fort Leavenworth.
Sgt. Maj. Bill Lansbury, who runs North’s JROTC program, said the team prevailed despite being in the mountains, which is very unusual for this team.
“There were quite a few teams following us, seeing the kind of times we were posting and relaying them to the teams. There was a mark on us,” Lansbury said. “The team is strong. Most of them have been together for three years, so they work well, rise to the challenge and beat their times of last year.”
North may have been even more prepared this year than last, as it built its own obstacle course at the school to train on over the summer. Yet when they were announced as winners again, there was that sense of disbelief they had last year.
“You never count on it. We always look at it wanting to post their next times and when you come out on top of that caliber of competition, it blows you away what the kids can do,” Lansbury said.
For senior Timothy Brett, who has won the national title twice, it was special with having new people on the team they were able to teach the ropes to.
“It was awesome how they rose to the challenge and learned from the best. We really pushed each other physically and mentally,” Brett said. “It was special when we learned we won. When the military academies followed us around, we try to focus on our game because if we do, we don’t have to worry about anyone else.”
Taylor Rosciti, the team’s lone freshman, said she didn’t expect to be there, but when they won, it was “crazy.”
“It took a lot of dedication. We practice six days week and would go on for extra hours. We all pushed 100 percent in practice. That was the difference,” said junior Genesis Rapalo. “Last year, I didn’t get the significance of it until we got home. This year it was funny watching other schools following us and getting our times.”
“I felt the pressure a lot. Being in the back, you have to put everything into every event,” Rosciti said. “The older kids helped me with my mental state and how to be a better teammate and runner. It was like positive encouragement and boot camp.”
The kids can’t rest on their laurels, however. They still have a state championship to try to win for a fourth straight year the first weekend of December.
The JROTC program in Lee County has an enrollment of 5,700 cadets in 14 schools, making it among the largest in the country. The mission of the JROTC program is to motivate young people to be better citizens.