The gym floor at Central Campus absorbed another resounding pounding from the tightly tied and brightly polished patent leather shoes of the J-ROTC Red Bull Battalion drill team Thursday morning.
It took almost the entire school year to get there, but the students who’ve marched every morning at 5:45 AM practices finally arrived at their destination last weekend: the National High School Drill Team Championships in Daytona Beach, Florida.
They returned as national champions.
Fourth overall among 32 teams competing from around the country, the Red Bulls placed fourth in Color Guard, fourth in Regulation, sixth in Inspection, and, wait for it…first in Exhibition.
For many of the students, the trip was their first opportunity to see the ocean, but they didn’t let the free time opportunities distract them from their primary mission.
Sergeant Robert Webb is the Army JROTC Instructor at Central Campus who coached the team. He’s clearly proud of its achievements, but reluctant to talk about them.
“They’re the ones who did this,” he said while the team marched through its winning routine one more time for the benefit of visitors. “You should talk to them.”
Battalion Commander Josefina DeLaCruz is the only senior on the drill team. She’s headed to Coe College next fall on an ROTC scholarship. Already enlisted in the National Guard, she’ll be commissioned as an officer upon her college graduation.
“I joined ROTC as a freshman because I was shy and wanted to learn about leadership,” she said. “I wasn’t even thinking about scholarships.”
But she rose through the ranks and earned one.
Marissa Thompson is only a sophomore. As the drill team commander, she developed much of the routine that earned the Red Bulls the waist-high trophy in their team pictures. Like DeLaCruz, she joined up to become a better leader.
“I might consider joining the Army after college,” she said, “but not before then.”
Sgt. Webb said some people have a misconception that the J-ROTC program’s objective is to recruit for the military.
“The reality is that we talk more students out of joining than we talk into it,” he said. “There are about 200 kids in J-ROTC here at Central and we always encourage them to consider college first. J-ROTC is a leadership training program.”
And a national championship one at that.
A salute to the Champs:
- Marissa Thompson
- Josefina Delacruz
- Maggie Harrigan
- Aubrey Douds
- Grace Binstock
- Trinity Allen
- Alejandra Orellana
- Gisell Orellana
- Jaquelyn Orellana
- Dulce Flores
- Sam Wilson
- Nathan Adams
- Trejahn Manning
- Kaleb Foltz
- Nathan Pendleton