3rd Battalion shines with national recognition each year
Though it’s not exactly a “sport” in any true sense of the word, the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program at North High School provides another outlet for interested students to shine after class lets out—and in some cases before the first bell rings.
“It really comes down to the kids’ dedication to what they’re doing. I think they’re having fun, they’re learning some valuable skills, and they’re competitive across the country at the state level and national level,” Maj. Scott Lynch, head instructor for the program, said. “The Raider team for instance, we have 39 of those kids and they’re here three days a week at 6 o’clock in the morning. They practiced until 7:30 this morning and they ran 3.35 miles and it was down in the high 20s this morning. That’s their commitment level.”
Lynch has been with NHS for 10 years, after he retired from the U.S. Army after 22 years of active service in 2010, and said the program attracts and grooms some of the best students in the area to enter the world as better citizens.
The JROTC program is a class, he said, but there are five other extracurricular options within the program that the 127 JROTC students this semester can choose from if they have that extra competitive grit: drill team, Raiders, marksmanship (rifle team), CyberPatriot, and robotics teams.
Lots of options
The drill team splits into three more teams: color guard, regulation and exhibition. The color guard presents the flag’s colors at pep rallies, athletic events, and other events around the city such as Colorado Rockies games; while regulation completes a series of commands in a certain order without breaking bearing. Exhibition completes a creative routine that the team made together.
The Raiders team competes in physical competitions, with students pushing themselves to their limits mentally as well. It’s similar to the Army ROTC “Ranger” competitions, but far less dangerous, Lynch said.
The marksmanship team is NHS’ rifle team, focusing on precision shooting and gun safety, and the team competes against other Denver Public Schools each week during the season. The CyberPatriot program, created by the Air Force, encourages students to pursue a career in cybersecurity and other STEM professions, while the robotics team—more or less—builds robots, some that can operate autonomously.
“We’re not here to recruit (to the military). That’s not our mission. Our mission is to motivate young people to be better citizens, and that does not include serving,” Lynch said. “Some kids do two teams, some only do one team, it’s really just based on what their interests are, and the time they have, and of course how well their academics are.”
Not a sport, but a program, and a family
Just because there are teams in the program that compete against other schools, JROTC isn’t a sport, Lynch said. The team doesn’t fall under the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA), and Lynch added no athletic background is required or necessary to be successful in JROTC.
“You don’t have to be athletic at all. The point of Raiders, for instance, is that they come here and learn how to enjoy and be good at being athletic. So they learn how to run, they learn how to stretch, we stress diet and hydration, and we provide a myriad of activities that they can learn how to do properly and can do on their own,” Lynch said.
But that doesn’t mean JROTC students aren’t competitive. In fact, Lynch said it’s quite the contrary. Each team competes against other schools across the city, state and country.
The Raiders competed in the Loveland High School Raider Challenge on Oct. 16, sweeping all competition which included seven other schools, some Marine and Air Force programs. This included a 3K cross country run, a rope bridge challenge, agility courses, and more.
But the rifle team is maybe the most decorated, he said, (though he doesn’t like to compare the teams) and has been nationally recognized for the last five seasons. The team’s Danika Fitzgerald is the number 1 precision shooter in the Western five-state region, Lynch said. No matter the team within JROTC at North, the accolades seem to follow.
“We like to call it a family. There are seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen, and they all support each other in all their classes and through their problems. It’s a much more organized support structure than a normal school (atmosphere) provides,” Lynch said. “Kids here, for the most part, they just want to be here, and so that creates a great community environment of a sense of belonging to something other than what they do outside of the school.”
For more info, stats, records, and decorated details of each team, visit the school’s JROTC website at northjrotc.com.