Wichita South High School's Junior ROTC racked up four wins and a national title after competing against more than 1,000 cadets in 45 programs at the annual National High School Drill Team Competition in Daytona Beach, Fla.
South's unarmed regulation drill team, led by senior Nicholus Cox, marched away with a win, finishing ahead of 33 other teams. The armed and unarmed color guard teams each brought home fourth-place awards, living up to predictions made earlier this year by Col. Robert Hester, director of Junior ROTC and Leadership Instruction for USD 259, that South would win big at April's contest.
"I think South has had a very good year this year," Hester said while addressing cadets at the Junior ROTC's year-end activities last week.
Judged separately from his team, Cox also earned the national unarmed commander champion, an award given to one unarmed drill team commander who exhibits exceptional leadership skills.
"I was overwhelmed," said Cox, 18. "I've been able to pick up trophies for the team, but having one that displayed my own personal appearance... overwhelms me."
Despite a disappointing loss by the armed drill team, which did not place despite a string of wins at local competitions, armed drill team commander Caitlin Sumpter, 18, was able to pick up a 10th-place finish in the national Individual Drill Down, a last-person-standing competition of more than 1,000 cadets following the orders of one commander.
"It's nice to be recognized on a national basis," Sumpter said. "You don't get that through many other experiences."
In Wichita, Junior ROTC is an elective class offered in high schools and in 10 middle schools. Districtwide, 2,400 students participate.
South's Junior ROTC program, led by 1st Sgt. Don Phillips and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Lewis Grantor, has 108 students.
"We are proud of all of the kids," Phillips said. "They represented South well and Wichita well."