In their most challenging event thus far in the season, the Marion High School JROTC drill team demonstrated they can compete and win against any team. In a regional contest hosted by North Bullitt High School in Kentucky, the Giants earned numerous top placements in a competition that featured 18 schools from across the Midwest.
Marion High School's JROTC drill team proudly displays their trophies from a Midwest region competition in Kentucky on Jan. 21, 2023.
"All of our teams were on it," retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Smith, the Marion coach, proudly explained. "Many of these schools here are among the best in the nation and frequently compete at the national level. Our cadets performed well, showing they can compete at that level too."
Under the watchful eyes of multiple graders, the drill team competed in a series of events all designed to test the discipline, synchronization, and poise of each cadet as they worked as a team performing various drill commands and movements. In the armed categories, they carry drill rifles.
The Giants pulled in two first place finishes in events led by veteran drillers Nakiya Bibbs and Evan Ray in the armed squad regulation drill and armed platoon regulation drill events. This was the second time Bibbs has led her team to a first place finish this season.
Marion High School JROTC Cadet Evan Ray leads his armed platoon to victory at a regional drill competition in Kentucky on Jan. 21, 2023.
"This is our first year to have enough drill cadets to compete with a platoon-sized element (13 cadets)," Ray said. "We have really been working to improve our routine, and it showed today."
The experience these competition veterans bring makes a difference for the team, Smith said.
"Both Ray and Bibbs are seniors with four years of drill team experience," he said. "That really pays off in these high-pressure meets."
Marion cadets Steven Fuller and Anthony O'Neil teamed up to compete in the armed exhibition duet, earning second place.
"It was nerve wracking," O'Neil said, "but we worked well together, and the results came in."
Marion High School JROTC cadets Steven Fuller and Anthony O'Neil spin their rifles during the armed exhibition duet event at a regional drill competition in Kentucky on Jan. 21, 2023. The duo placed second in the event.
The Giants also garnered a trio of third place finishes in the co-ed color guard, exhibition squad, and LET 1 (first year) cadet armed regulation squad events.
Of note, the Giants also earned third-place finish overall in a series of events designed just for the LET1s (first-year cadets).
The final events of the drill competition were the individual armed and unarmed knock-out competition. In this pressure-cooker event, hundreds of cadets take to the drill floor to execute the commands that are given. Nearly a dozen graders watch for the slightest of imperfections in the movement of the cadets. Any infraction results in a tap on the shoulder, signaling that the cadet is knocked out (removed) from the competition. Through attrition, the cadets competing are eliminated down to the top 10 finishers, and then in sequence down to only one remaining.
In the armed knock-out category, Evan Ray finished in 10th place. Teammate Stephany Miksch, a senior, finished in second place in the unarmed knock-out competition.
The Marion team will travel Feb. 25 to compete in Indianapolis.