ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Naval Junior ROTC cadets from Robertsdale and Elberta high schools are California bound after qualifying for the NJROTC National Orienteering Championships to be held next month at Vasquez Rocks in Aqua Dulce, just outside Los Angeles.
In December, a team of cadets from the RHS NJROTC, which also consists of cadets from Elberta High School, competed in the Area 8 championships in Birmingham, which included cadets from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and the Florida Panhandle.
By finishing sixth in the competition, RHS qualified as an alternate for the national competition and ultimately got the call to compete after other teams were unable to compete, said RHS senior instructor Lt. Commander Frank Starr. The top three teams from 11 districts across the United States are invited to compete at the National level.
“For their first time in an individual competition, this is an amazing accomplishment,” Starr said. Starr himself is no stranger to the competition. Before coming to Robertsdale, he spent the last four years at Union Grove High School in McDonough, Georgia, the defending Orienteering National Champion.
The competition is set for Feb. 15-17. Cadets and their instructors will fly to California on Thursday, Feb. 14, with a practice day on Friday, Feb 15 and competition on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16 and 17.
Orienteering is a competition where teams of up to five cadets compete to find checkpoints on a map. Much like a cross country race, each cadet is timed individually and the top three times in each round for each team are counted. Scores for each day are added up and the team with the lowest score is the winner.
“When you have multiple days of competition, that means a cadet that placed on the first day of competition may not place on the second day,” Starr said, “so consistency can be a key component to winning the competition.”
Teams are split into four course levels, the White Course, which is for beginning level cadets, those who have never competed before; the Yellow Course, for intermediate-level competitors; the Orange Course, what is also known as the JV course; and Green/Brown courses, which are the highest level, or varsity course (the Green course is for boys, the Brown course is for girls).
In the National Competition, only the Orange and Green/Brown course competitors receive scores (the RHS team currently does not have any competitors that qualified for the Brown course). There is no White course in the National Competition. Cadets can participate at the Yellow level but will not receive a score for the overall competition.
Cadets representing the RHS NJROTC include, from Robertsdale, Keanan Ard, Jacob Galloway, Walter Herrin, Wesley Kilgore, Justin Mickelsen, Connor Smith and Darby Stevenson; from Elberta, Richard Arrington, Henry Arthur, Luke Bornholt, Dalton Day, Kaden Etheridge, Nicholas Howard, Chris Porter and Grant Starr.
“It’s going to be a real challenge for us,” Starr said. “While the course is going to be basically open with no trees or other obstructions (the qualifying course was heavily wooded), the course will begin at 2,500 feet above sea level and will change in elevation 800 feet over the course. We simply don’t have anything like that in Baldwin County that we can train on.”
The team has also been challenged to raise money for the trip.
“Each cadet has been asked to raise some of the money,” Starr said, “the rest we are raising through sponsorships and team donations.”
As a team they will need to raise $11,000 for the trip. Anyone wishing information about how to become a sponsor for the team can contact Starr at RHS, 251-947-4154 or at email@example.com.
It will be a busy month for cadets, Starr said. As soon as they come back from the National Orienteering Championship, they will be preparing to compete in the Warhawk air rifle competition in Anniston Feb. 26 for a chance to compete in the national competition, which will also be held in Anniston.