When most people think of athletics at Carroll County High School, sports like football, basketball, baseball and volleyball come to mind. However, there’s another group of athletes who generally go unrecognized, who will be competing in a far more demanding athletic event later this month. Students in CCHS’s JROTC program will be competing in a variety of events over a 12-mile course during the Raider on the New competition on Saturday, Sept. 29. The competition gets under way at 8 a.m. at Fosters Falls and ends at Camp Powhatan in Hiwassee with a picnic and awards.
Four years ago during the JROTC’s annual 50-mile hike, instructors Col. Mark Carper and Sgt. 1st Class Gary Isom began discussing an event that would test their students’ ability.
“We thought this would be a good addition to their training. We’re still tweaking it a little bit. We have a good time doing this and the kids really enjoy it,” said Sgt. Isom, who described the Raider on the New event as the “JROTC version of Army Ranger training.”
High school teams from Magna Vista, which won the first two Raiders on the New, last-year’s winner Harrisonburg, Bassett, William Byrd, Patrick County, South Lakes, Wallhalla (S.C.), and Fishbourne Military Academy will be competing in this year’s event. The top qualifiers will advance to the state-wide Best of the Best competition. Last year, Carroll County had the overall best male team and best mixed team in the Raiders on the New competition and finished 14th out of 364 teams in the Best of the Best.
“Our goal last year was to make the Best of the Best, since we had never made it,” said Col. Carper. “This year, our goals are a little different.”
“We’ve got some talented kids, but sometimes they can’t see beyond the end of their noses,” added Carper. “They look at us like we’re crazy when we tell them how good they can be.”
One member of the JROTC program who has excelled is Ryan Pickard, who was on the Cavaliers’ winning four-man team last year. Although the constant training is hard, Pickard realizes that it’s a necessity if he and his teammates are to do well in competition.
“It’s really hard, but I know I have to do it to do well in the competition. You just tell yourself you have to do it, plus I get a lot of help from my teammates,” said Pickard, who has high hopes for this year’s event.
“I think we’re going to do a lot better this year. I think we can go pretty far. Our goal this year is to go to the nationals,” he said.
Although Pickard hasn’t made a definite decision yet, he thinks that joining the U.S. Army might be in his future.
“I think I just might join the army,” said Pickard. “It’s a steady paycheck and has benefits. I think it’s a good choice for anyone.”
The teams for this year’s competition haven’t been determined yet, said Sgt. Isom. “The teams probably won’t be set until the week of the competition.”
Although Carper and Isom came up with the idea, they noted that army recruiters, Radford University and Greg Harmon of the Boy Scouts of America have played key roles in the success of the Raider on the New competition.
“We couldn’t do it without Greg’s support,” said Col. Carper.
The first event of the Raider on the New is the Rockwall Climb. Competitors then complete a timed one-mile run before traveling four more miles down the course to the Sit-Up station. From there, it’s another mile before reaching the Push-Up station, then it’s almost three miles before competing in the Land Navigation. In two more miles, competitors take on the Litter Carry, then three miles down the course they face the One-Rope Bridge and Canoe Logistic Relay. The final event is the Ed of Canoe Azimuth.