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MHS JROTC drill team finishes season on a high note

The Marion High School JROTC Drill Team ended their season Saturday with several major accomplishments, including a top finish in the armed squad regulation drill event at one of the most competitive contests they entered all year.

In the regional competition hosted by Concordia Lutheran High School, with the support of the ROTC Program at Purdue Fort Wayne, this year’s event featured 16 JROTC units made up of more than 700 cadets from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan. Some of the teams present are the best from across the nation.

They competed in categories including color guard team and armed and unarmed drill team.

“This is by far the most competitive and challenging event we attend during our drill season,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Smith, the coach for Marion’s drill team. “Five of the schools attending this year have won the National Drill Championship in previous years, and they will compete at that level again this year. For us to place, let alone win an event here against such other schools, is a huge accomplishment!”

The Giants earned a first-place finish in the armed squad regulation drill event. MHS senior Tyron Rice led his team through a series of movements and drill while under the watchful eye of three seasoned graders. The slightest wrong move or flinch would determine the success or failure of the nine-cadet formation.

“I knew my team had it in them to win at this level,” Cadet Rice said. “It was great to see them finally put it all together and demonstrate what we could do.”

The second significant achievement for the Giants was the unarmed squad regulation drill led by MHS freshman Evan Ray, whose formation placed fifth overall.

“Cadet Ray is a stellar first-year cadet,” CSM Smith said. “And for him to have the composure, leadership, and determination to train and then lead his team in this pressure cooker of a competition is absolutely amazing. He is truly the future of our drill team.”

“I am so excited about how well we performed,” MHS freshman Stephanie Miksch said. “I love drill.”

According to Smith, Miksch should be proud of her performance as she is one of his future superstars in drill. Miksch competed with both teams that placed in the competition.

Marion’s other significant achievement came from veteran team member and MHS senior I’Yela Hornaday, who brought home an individual medal for her performance during the final knock-out competition. Her four years of training came through in a solid performance while responding to rapid-fire drill commands while under the scrutiny of a dozen Army drill sergeants. Hornaday was able to finish in the top 10 from among the nearly 700 cadets competing in this individual event.

This was the final competition for the Giants this year. Smith noted that his team will graduate five seniors this year, but he has great expectations for his team next year given the quality of the underclassmen who competed with the team this year.

“I expect great things from the next year,” he said. “Those cadets returning are some of the best we have ever had.”

Caption: Marion High School JROTC Cadet Tyron Rice reports in for the armed squad regulation drill event during the regional competition hosted at Purdue Fort Wayne campus on Feb. 22, 2020. The Giants defeated 16 other teams, some being former national champions, to bring home the first place finish in this event. (Photo provided by Marion Community Schools)

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