Ninety minutes. They had ninety minutes to locate 13 markers as they trudged through mud, climbed hills, and decoded maps. This was no friendly scavenger hunt.
Four JROTC cadets—senior Ian McWhirt, freshman Braden Donahue, and juniors Jonathon Stein and Liam Sexton—competed at Camp Bullis last Wednesday, Feb. 12. They competed in an event called orienteering, a lengthy cross-country event. Their mission was to locate a list of bright orange markers before their time ended.
“We take a map and we plot out coordinates that are given to us,” McWhirt said. “We run to each of the points, punch them on the scorecard, and run back to the starting line.”
For months the cadets trained for the event.
“We did a lot of running in boots and we practiced plotting points with the coordinates,” Stein said. “This was my first competition so I had no idea what was going to happen.”
Camp Bullis is 28,000 acres--about 44 square miles—full of forest and wildlife. But the team had only a few tools to help navigate the course: a protractor, a compass, and a map. Although each had his own task, one student emerged as the clear leader.
“We had one individual who was doing everything in regards to finding out where to go,” Sexton said. “A big part of it is just trying to figure out how much distance there is actually from the map to where you’re actually running. This student was on it the entire way.”
That student was McWhirt. His land-navigation skills, acquired from boy scouts, allowed him to interpret the map with relative ease. However, he was put to the challenge at the close of the event.
“At the very end of the competition he sprained his ankle,” Sexton said. “He’s a big guy so he was having trouble. We had five seconds to spare. Then he started sprinting. He barely got there.”
At the end of ninety minutes, all team members had to have crossed the finish line or else their score was deducted. But the team made it--with only seconds left on the clock. Their finish catapulted them to third place in a crowd of 24 teams.
“We ended up with 70 points out of 99,” Donahue said. “We found 11 out 13 markers.”
Despite the hills, the mud, the soreness, and the pain, they found joy in the camp scenery and team camaraderie. And their hard work paid off. For now, though, orienteering is just a hobby. In the future, each plan on joining the military. Stein wants to enlist in the army. Sexton aims to become a medic. McWhirt plans on becoming an officer.
Their next competition is at Camp Bullis on February 29. They will be recognized for their performance on March 24.
~Ally Lozano- Copy-Editor