BY ILYSSA MANN
The Bay’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) team competed in the quarter finals for drill competition on Feb. 9 at Hollywood Hills High School. JROTC teacher Major Mario Ochoa said this competition is the buildup for the county drill meet on April 13. Eighteen students from the Bay qualified for states at the competition: seven in a squad, which is a group of students marching, seven in the armed squad and four in marksmanship, where a large group of students march in a fashionable order.
“The competition is not about winning trophies, even though it’s a great thing to get recognized,” Ochoa said. “It’s about learning to be a team, growing together and sacrificing the time and efforts to get to the goals you want in life.”
Senior and Battalion Commander Cole Wadsworth said drills and ceremonies are essential to every JROTC program. He said competitions allow the Bay’s team to compete against other Broward County teams and increase their overall skill level.
“I really like going to competitions because it can feel rewarding in a way,” Wadsworth said. “Everyone gets nervous for the competitions, but that all goes away once you are competing. You lose sense of your surroundings and get really invested into the competition and presenting your best self.”
Preparing for the competition consisted of three to five practices a week after school, each for two to three hours. Ochoa said the students can be hard on themselves when it comes to competition and preparation. However, he said all he asks of his students is to “be all you can be.”
“Watching my students compete was exciting because I knew just by watching them that they were doing better than they probably thought,” Ochoa said. “When it comes to competing, I always tell my students to aim for the stars and to essentially set their goals as high as they can.”
Sophomore Julian Rojas competed at quarter finals, where he felt all of the team’s hard work came together and was put to the test.
“There is no feeling like the one you get from competing,” Rojas said. “When we do our sequences in front of the judges our hearts are racing, but we still manage to do our best.”
Wadsworth was in charge of managing their physical fitness team and ensuring their drill team was on schedule for all of their events. Wadsworth said participating in competitions is a feeling like no other and he encourages other JROTC students to compete as much as they can.
“The entire process of learning a drill and practicing it endlessly up until the competition actually helps you grow as a person as well,” Wadsworth said.
Rojas said as this being his fourth drill competition, his favorite part about the whole experience was getting to see his teammates compete alongside him and seeing all their hard work come together.
“It’s important to remember to never doubt yourself in high stress situations like these,” Rojas said. “Believing in yourself and doing your best all the way up until the finish line is a key aspect our teachers and judges want to see in us.”
Rojas said his goals for the competition were to do his best and to be prepared. He said those goals were met thanks to his teammates and teachers.
“My own experience at competitions has been outstanding and I would highly recommend future students to participate in these drill competitions,” Rojas said. “The competitions teach you so much about yourself and what your capable of.”