Average sports fans know all about JROTC and the students who participate in the program. They're the ones who hold up the American flag before high school football games.
That's the more visible portion of their duties, but it doesn't even scratch the surface of what the Lakeside JROTC Raider team has accomplished this fall.
"All of this -- it's harder than any other cross country thing I've ever had to do," Lakeside's Atom Young said.
Young is the top cross country runner in the area, but he didn't attend practice every day in the fall. He spent part of that time training as a member of the JROTC Raider team.
The 10-man squad shocked the county when it beat out Evans for the 2006 Rogers Cup. It also won the Marauders Cup in Hephzibah -- all in the first two weeks of the season.
"It's sort of like the equivalent to the best ranger competitions in the Army," Maj. Tim McKean said. "There's no shooting or parachuting, but you do have the water obstacles and the mountaintop rescue."
Take any three-hour football game, any double-overtime marathon in basketball and any extra-inning baseball game. The required endurance and stamina to finish those sporting events doesn't even come close to what the Raiders go through during a weekend competition.
There's the 3-mile run. It's a team event that requires all 10 members of the squad to stay within 10 meters of each other. Lakeside blew away eventual state champion Paulding County in that event.
Then there's the mountaintop rescue, in which 300 pounds of equipment must be carried up a half-mile incline and back. An event that requires the team to pull a Humvee up the hill is similar in physical demand.
"I tried to come up with every excuse I could just so I wouldn't have to walk up that hill because it was so steep," McKean said.
The squad must also endure a physical training test that includes a mile run, two minutes of pushups and two minutes of sit-ups.
"At state we had some people in the 100s for pushups," Young said. "You'd better get at least 90."
There's also obstacle courses that include water hazards and rope bridges. It all takes a toll on each athlete.
"After a competition is done, you're dead," Lakeside junior Shaun Roberts said. "If you're not, you didn't try hard enough."
The Lakeside athletes did. They experienced the best season in recent memory. The team, made up mostly of juniors and seniors, worked hard for the success, including one practice that included a 6-mile run in the rain.
"I remember after the first day at the state competition, I told them their curfew at the hotel was 8 p.m." McKean said. "I started at 8 thinking they'd complain, and I'd give them 8:30. There were no arguments. They were ready for bed."
The work paid off. Lakeside earned state and national recognition with a second-place finish in the state competition Nov. 16-18, and a fourth-place finish in the national competition Nov. 2-4.
"This is only my second year here, but the program has been here since '94," McKean said. "As far as I know, this has been the best year so far."
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