Gaither High School claimed this year’s title at the 2019 Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) National Academic, Athletic and Drill Championship onboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola April 5-6.
“It feels unreal right now…just insane,” said Cadet Cmdr. Jason Dodson, a senior at Gaither High School. “So much hard work was put in with us all coming together as a team and being on the same page.”
This year the unit piled-up 5,539 points to capture the title. Last year’s champion, Green Run High School from Virginia Beach, Virginia, came in second with 5,477 points.
"Watching the students during the ceremony was amazing. Thousands of people are waiting and when they announced, “Gaither High School”, we lost our minds,” explained an emotional LCDR Jim Stauffer, Gaither’s Senior Naval Science Instructor.
Of the 583 NJROTC units worldwide, only 26 qualify for the national competition.
The units were challenged on their athleticism, tested in academics and evaluated on the drill deck during the competition.
“Citizenship, character, fitness, that is what this program is all about. The NJROTC cadets that I have met this weekend bring all those characteristics together and remind me that we have incredible instructors, great school systems who run these programs, amazing parents who support and most importantly the most phenomenal young people you will ever meet,” said Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi, commander, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), who oversees the NJROTC program. The personnel inspections, color guard and the drill events at the competition were judged by Navy Recruit Division Commanders (RDC’s) and Marine Corps drill instructors (DI’s) from Officer Training Command (OTCN), Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island. In addition, Marines from Marine Aviation Training Support Group-21 assisted in judging the drill events, while Sailors from the Navy Recruiting Orientation Unit at NAS Pensacola judged the curl-up and push-up portions of the competition.
“Our kids understand the value of teamwork. They understand the value of solving issues, commitment, honor and integrity. These are the things that they’ll carry forward in life,” said Stauffer.
Gaither’s Competition Results:
· Academics - 1st Place (National Champion)
· Team Push-Ups: 1st Place (National Champion)
· Team Curl-Ups: 2nd Place (National Runner-Up)
· Overall Team Athletics: 2nd Place (National Runner-Up)
Gaither’s Individual Numbers and Team Averages (8 boys & 8 girls):
· Gerardo Ramirez – 319 curl-ups.
· Leticia Daubar - 118 push-ups.
· Team Push-Ups: 71 per student
· Team Curl-Ups: 203 per student
Additional Notes from Gaither High School:
· Gaither is the first Navy JROTC from Hillsborough County to win this competition.
· Gaither attended 5 NJROTC meets this school year and won all of them, to include the Florida State Championship in March 2019.
· Gaither had 49 Cadets attend and 50 Parent Supporters – a true sign of rapid community support
· Gaither has qualified to attend 5 of the last 6 years, with the highest previous finish as 3rd.
· Several individual medals were won by Gaither Cadets as well - 4 in academics and 5 in Athletics.
· Gaither Cadets trained for 9 months leading up to the competition.