Whether it’s running three miles, building a rope bridge, completing an obstacle course or doing cross country rescue, the Cedar Shoals High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) raider team is improving in all areas.
“We’ve been doing really good, the females have been finishing first and second place in our competitions and we are in the top two in our area,” senior Genesis Moreno said.
The Cedar raider team is split into a female team, a male team, and a mixed team. The teams compete every Saturday from September through October. Unfortunately the annual home meet scheduled for Oct. 1 was canceled because of Hurricane Ian.
“The hardest is when it rains,” junior Nayla Villafana said. “Everything is slippery and it’s hard to stand still. When it’s hot you just get tired really easily.”
The raider team is not only adjusting to weather but also to the new instructor, Master Sergeant David Croft.
“It was a lot of them adapting to us and us adapting to them and with the way they wanted to do things,” Moreno said. “He was so used to being with males and so coming here with females and trying to coach females was hard but we all figured it out and we all work well together.”
Croft, who previously worked at Riverside Military Academy, decided to come to Cedar after being impressed by how previous raider competitions were run on campus.
“Cedar was probably one of the best meets I went to in the past two years. Last year the car show was also going on so it was really crowded, but everything went smoothly and it was just unbelievable how organized and detailed they were,” Croft said. “When I saw an opening I was like ‘Cedar is where I need to be because they got it going on.’”
Raider competitions have five events and the team with lowest total points wins. Points are related to the rankings in each event: first place is one point, second place is two points, third is three and so on.
Competitions mean a full day of activity. Lasting from anywhere between six to nine hours, the teams are constantly moving around with little breaks.
“Raider challenges you to think outside the box and strategize in order to have the best performance at the competitions,” senior Fernando Somilleda Bravo said. “It shows you discipline and helps you improve your mind and strengthen your body.”
Each of the teams is made up of 10-14 students with one leader. Moreno is the leader for the female team and senior Nicolas Rico-Arroyo captains the male team.
“Nic is an exceptional athlete, he’s been doing it for several years and same with Genesis. That’s why they were picked to lead,” Croft said.
The mixed team is led by three students: Villafana, senior Josue Martinez and sophomore Marilyn Burgos.
“Nayla was picked for her leadership and athletic ability. Marilyn is very strong. She did ultimate raider last year and she did really well in several of the events. Jose came to all the summer and training practices and has worked really hard and has improved 110%,” Croft said. “The mixed team is mainly made up of underclassmen, so one of their main struggles is inexperience, but they’ve been doing really well.”
IN IT TO WIN IT: The Cedar raider team at their competition on Oct. 8 at Grovetown High School. The teams worked hard the whole season in order to go to state. “One thing you can get from raider that you will not get from another sport is reliability,” female captain Genesis Moreno said. “As captain people rely on you to make sure your train them right and get them placed in competitions or even go to state.” Photo by Megan Wise.
Being a leader of the raider team requires a commitment to always being encouraging and responsible both during competitions and in the classroom.
“I have to make sure everyone is on top of things, showing up to practice and keeping good grades,” Villafana said. “I also have to make the teams for each event.”
Moreno is also the Battalion Commander, the top ranking student leader for JROTC. She says she constantly has eyes on her.
“I have to be an example always, no matter what around the cadets,” Moreno said. “It’s very stressful and sometimes you just have to loosen up, but it’s fun because you get to have a friendship with all the people around you.”
Raider competitions challenge physical strength, and while each team shows great improvement with this as the season continues, sometimes the bigger issues are mental ones.
“I feel like self doubt might be the hardest thing during competitions because sometimes self doubt gets to your mind too much and then you don’t keep pushing yourself,” Villanana said.
Despite all the mental and physical challeneges, for Moreno, being a part of raider has brought a sense of accomplishment.
“I continue to compete because I love how it feels, the adrenaline and feeling I get from working hard feels good to me,” Moreno said. “The team work and the way you push yourself past your limits, and being able to see how you are capable of anything that you put your mind into makes the sport valuable.”
Somilleda Bravo impulsively joined the raider team because he saw the community they inspire, and he has never looked back.
“I’ve gotten the chance to meet some cool people and make memories with them,” Somilleda Bravo said. “The competitions can be challenging at times but it’s always fun to go out here and bring home some trophies.”
Although the teams continue to place first and second at competitions, they will not be attending nationals.
“The instructors have to pay for nationals in May, before the season even starts,” Moreno said. “They have to estimate if it’s going to be a good team or not, and we didn’t know how many people we were going to have.”
Raider has not competed at nationals since 2020, but Croft hopes to bring the teams to nationals within the next two years.
“My goal for the raider team is to get to nationals and win a national championship for Cedar,” Croft said. “I have no doubt that they can do it; I think they deserve to be on the national scene.”