Cadets from Central Crossing to take part in championship
From May 5-7, 19 NJROTC cadets from Central Crossing will be taking part in the National High School Drill Team Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla. Central Crossing was one of 150 schools across the world to qualify for the annual event.
“This is the largest meet in the country and it’s filled with the best teams,” said Justin Gates, vice-president and competition director for Sports Network International, which sponsors the event. “It’s kind of like seeing a seven-ring circus; everywhere you look someone is doing something amazing and incredible.
“It’s staggering the level of talent that these kids put together and bring here.”
This will be the ninth time the Central Crossing NJROTC drill team has competed in the nationals. For reference, the school opened in 2002.
“We have finished in the top 10 every year we have gone,” said Sgt. Maj. Donald Bocook, a retired Marine who is the school’s naval science instructor.
He said they have finished as low at 10th and as high as third. They came in fourth place last year.
“If you can get any trophies at the nationals, that is saying a lot about your program,” said Bocook.
The cadets will be competing with 47 other schools in the challenge level in the armed division. There will be four events they will be judged on: color guard, uniform/personnel inspection, armed exhibition drills and armed regulation drills. The schools that place first or second overall will move onto the masters level.
Bocook said while he wants the program to succeed, he would like to keep them out of the masters level for the time being.
“That would be like throwing them out to the wolves,” he said.
Gates said masters level competition often includes drill units with hundreds of cadets. Central Crossing only has 19 on its drill team and 105 students overall in the NJROTC program.
Regardless of the size, the program has done well with the available bodies and the drill routines the students create themselves.
“There’s no manual at all in the armed exhibition drills,” said Bocook. “Either the judges like what you’re doing or they don’t.”
He did say one thing he doesn’t want to see are dropped weapons.
“If that weapon hits the deck, you just lost 25 points,” Bocook said. “And if you lose that, you might as well get off the floor.”
There were plenty of dropped weapons during practice, which happens every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., but that’s what practice is for – making mistakes.
Bocook said he thinks the students are ready for the main event, but they need a little swagger.
“This year is different because we have a lot more experience, so they have the ability to do more difficult drills,” he said. “But I keep telling them they have to put on a show, you have to have good body language and you have to leave an impression.
“They have to be 90 percent confident and 10 percent cocky,” he said. “If we don’t get some more of that and we go in scared, we’re doomed.”