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JROTC cadets put to the test during competition
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Members of the Bassett High School JROTC Raider Team compete in the one-rope bridge event Saturday. Raider teams are made up of JROTC students who train and compete outside of regular JROTC duties. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
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Monday, March 4, 2013

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

More than 240 JROTC cadets created and crossed rope bridges, carried stretchers with the equivalent of 160-pound casualties and ran logistic relays and a 5K at the Magna Vista Virginia West Region Raider Challenge on Saturday.

East Surry Varsity was the overall champion among 27 teams which took part in the challenge Saturday at Magna Vista High School and Lee Ford Camp.

Among the local schools which competed, Magna Vista JV1 placed fifth, Magna Vista JV2 placed 18th, Bassett placed 20th and Tunstall placed 23rd.

“Our school is known for the Raiders,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Truini, the JROTC/wrestling coach at Magna Vista. And it has state title trophies won in seven of the past nine years to show for it.

Participation in the Raider team is voluntary for JROTC students. Truini said at Magna Vista, there usually are about 230 students in JROTC each year, and it has nine members on each of its varsity and two JV Raider teams. Students who do not make the team often practice with the Raiders, he said.

“It’s a family within the family of JROTC,” he said. “They’re pretty close-knit. They are special in their own way.”

The team attracts students who are or want to be in top physical shape but are “not football players, not basketball players. They’re not into the standard sports at school,” Truini said.

The exception to that is the cross-country team, he said, which includes many Raider members.

The Raiders practice three days a week, but members also practice at home to be in top physical condition, Truini said.

“It’s nothing for these kids to run an extra 8 or 10 miles every week,” he said. “It’s very physical.”

But there is more to it than that. The Raider program teaches “a professional way of handling things along with competition,” he said, mentioning good sportsmanship and maturity.

Saturday’s competition was one of two in Virginia that qualifies teams for the 4th Brigade Best of the Best (BOB) competition to be held in April in Charlotte, N.C. The Best of the Best pits only the top one to three teams in each state from Maryland to South Carolina.

The Magna Vista JROTC Raiders varsity team already has qualified for the BOB by finishing in second place in a qualifier in South Carolina recently, so it did not compete Saturday, Truini said.

Last year, the Magna Vista team finished fifth in the Best of the Best competition for the East Coast.

The Raider members benefit from the camaraderie they develop with other team members and the sense of pride they gain, Truini said.

“For our school, they’re used to winning; they’re used to being on top,” he said. “The rope bridge is our signature event. They take it real seriously and are very proud. They get a sense of pride.”

Saturday, the Magna Vista JV1 team came in first place in the rope bridge challenge, and its JV2 team finished fifth in that competition.

That challenge involves a team crossing a gap of about 50 inches with a single rope approximately 100 feet long. Each team member had to tie a Swiss seat (climbing harness) out of a 14-foot rope with an attached carabiner (snap link). Then a one-rope bridge is constructed by tying off each end to two trees approximately 50 feet apart, according to information from Truini.

Once constructed, each member had to cross the rope by clipping the carabiner into the rope, hanging upside down and pulling himself/herself across. Once all the members had crossed, the team took down the rope bridge, the information added.

“As a group, we wanted to be the best at it,” Truini said of the rope bridge competition. “On any given day we can beat just about any other school” at it.

Other challenges in Saturday’s event were a litter obstacle course, a logistic relay and a 5K (3-mile run).


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