It’s been quite the semester for the Magna Vista Warriors JROTC Raider Team and it’s not even halfway through the school year.

So far, the local team has competed at four meets — and they’ve won first place at three of those.

The team’s first win occurred on Oct. 5 at East Surry in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, when the raiders came in first place in three out of the five challenges.

The following week, they were back at it again — but not without a bit of a break after the first meet.

“The first action we take is about two days of recovery. Being able to compete at a high level on a continuous basis is not about always conditioning each day,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Truini. “After a tough competition, recovery is just as important as conditioning. The body needs time to heal and rest to be prepared to condition again.”

That’s not to say that the team doesn’t practice. Truini noted during recovery days, the team works on technical issues.

“We work on strategies, organizing for the next meet, work on the finer points of our events and skills such as these,” Truini said. “As we are practicing for each event, the raiders are actually conditioning themselves to perform at high levels. This is in addition to other conditioning workouts we may do, such as long runs or sprints. Many of the raiders workout on their own time to help prepare. The raiders themselves will push and encourage each other to perform and improve to the best of their ability.”  

Once again prepared for competition on Oct. 12, the raider team claimed their second first place title of the year at a tournament held in China Grove, North Carolina.

At the event, the team split up into two groups — a male group and a co-ed group. The male group dominated the event, winning first place in every challenge. The co-ed team came in with a respectful fifth place finish, just four points out of third.

There was one close call at the tournament, which occurred during the HUMM-V pull.

In the challenge, teams pull the 10,000-pound vehicle approximately 50 yards in a grassy area. Teams must start in a pushup position, facing away from the vehicle. On the word “go,” they must grab the rope attached to the vehicle and start pulling. Each team has a chance to pull it twice and then take the best of the two times.

The male team finished with a time of 18.87 seconds and decided to try again.

“We did not know if this was good enough for a first-place finish, so we decided to go for a second pull. I saw one person favoring his one leg. At this point, I told the team and grader, ‘We are declining the second pull and will just go with the first pull time.’ I did not want to risk an injury,” Truini said. “The pull time stood up as they finished 1.5 seconds ahead of the second-place team.”

Next, the group traveled to the Army Raider National Championship on Nov. 2 in Molena, Georgia. While they’ve qualified for the national event in the past, this is the first time the Ridgeway team attended.

A total of 32 teams competed at the meet. The Ridgeway group finished in the top 15 of every event in which they participated. They brought home an award for finishing fifth in the nation on the gauntlet course.

“Finishing fifth, eighth and 14th in the events was a good feeling. It was proof that the Magna Vista JROTC Raiders can compete at the national level. In many cases mere seconds can separate first to fourth place. When you collect the best teams from the country, you cannot make mistakes — it will cost you in the standings,” Truini said. “Many of the schools that finish at the top are military prep schools; they do have an advantage over most public schools. Their students live on campus and practice and condition every day. Most public schools do not have that luxury.”

The local team could not compete in the last event of the day, the cross-country rescue, due to an injury to one raider and illness to another.  Because of this they were not qualified for a placement in the overall standing.

That marked the second time in the season that a potential injury or illness prevented the team from either redoing or completing a challenge.

“I value the individual’s physical wellbeing. It was my decision in both of these situations and, even though disappointed, the team fully supported the decisions,” Truini said. “Winning is great, but not at the risk of further injury.”

The decisions prevented an injury at China Grove and likely lessened the severity of an ankle injury at the national competition, which took approximately three days to heal.

“If we would have pushed it at nationals, not only would the student have aggravated the injury and not performed to the ability needed, she would not have been available for the state meet. So, it was the correct decision in both situations,” Truini said. “My mindset is, when a member is sick or hurt, I would rather lose them for a few days instead of taking the chance of losing them for a few weeks.”

With the team in tiptop shape for the state meet, the Warriors competed in Chesterfield on Nov. 9. There, the team won their 12th state title in 16 years.

The secret recipe to keeping the momentum going year after year doesn’t only have one ingredient.

“What I have found is conditioning, focus and developing a championship environment are the ingredients to staying on top,” Truini said. “One of the keys to success for our program the last two years was competing in the newly developed co-ed division. Out of the nine members, four must be females. Competing with a co-ed team brings new challenges, but in the end, once the team bonds, it is a great feeling to sit back and watch what the males and females accomplish working together as a team.”

Keeping the team’s momentum up also is important.

“The team and individuals must be and stay hungry for the next challenge. At Magna Vista this is usually not an issue — these kids are used to winning. Winning breeds winning,” Truini said. “The members of our team know teams are always chasing us. The harder they chase, the more we must push.”

In his experience over the past 16 years, Truini noted several formidable teams have risen to the challenge against the Warriors, but the Magna Vista team remains constantly competitive year after year.

“Every year we, as well as other teams, must improve on each event. The standards are constantly rising. If you do not rise to the climbing standards, you will not be competitive,” Truini said. “It takes a special group of students to accomplish what we have year after year, and we have those special students. They are already talking about winning 13th next year.”

While the team prepares for meets in March and the Mid-Atlantic Championships in April, they plan to work on weight training, cardio and stamina. Once February rolls around, the team will start to focus on each meets’ events and develop strategies.

“I have a few that will go to other sports, such as wrestling. The main goal is to keep team members engaged and active. We will train anywhere from two to three days a week so we don’t lose the conditioning we have built. They did get a complete week off after state to recover,” Truini said. “Being a JROTC Raider is not like any other sport. Other sports have seasons that last a couple to a few months. Being a raider is an all year commitment. That is part of what makes these kids so special, to be dedicated for the entire year. Some have been on the raider team all four years.”

Calling his team one of the most active battalions in the 4th Brigade, Truini said that many of the cadets also compete in drill competitions, are members of Color Guards, volunteer their time in the community and stay involved with all that the JROTC programs does.

“I am proud of those who give up so much of their personal time for the Warrior Battalion. This demonstrates the quality of students that Magna Vista has in their JROTC program,” Truini said. “They deserve the accolades and benefits that come with their success. It is more than success from competitions, it is success for improving their life by making smarter and wiser decisions in life, taking courses of action to ensure they get a good head start in life, focusing on their future — not so much their past — learning from their mistakes and overall just becoming a better citizen.”

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