The JROTC teams from Lakeside and Evans high schools did not have to go far to take home plenty of hardware from the Army JROTC State Championships at Fort Gordon.
The Evans Knights drill team took first place in Standard Drill and third place in Exhibition Drill on March 22 to claim an overall state championship for the fourth consecutive year, their eighth time in 11 years.
The Lady Knights also won their first state title, finishing first in Standard Drill and Exhibition Drill.
Tiffany Wright, the commander of the Lady Knights team, said this is her fourth year on the drill team.
"We've come close, but we've never gotten there," she said. "It just felt really good to finally get there."
Wright and Andrew Justice, the commander of the boys' team, attributed their success to hard work, dedication and practice.
"We made a determination that we were going to come in and uphold our title, and we did," Justice said.
Lakeside took first place in the Platoon Exhibition Drill, headed by Andrew Jefferson, and the Squad Regulation Drill, headed by Tara Wilcox. Anthony Rincione and Shaun Roberts finished first in the Male Duo Exhibition, and Wilcox took first place in the Female Individual Exhibition.
"I was happy and excited, kind of overwhelmed. It's still a thrill every time," said Wilcox, who also finished first in the Female Individual Exhibition as a junior and third as a sophomore.
Roberts said he and Rin-cione, who finished in fifth place in the duo competition last year, work well together.
"We don't have a lot of time to practice duos and individuals," he said. "It's more about the team."
The Lakeside female color guard, headed by Natalie Lopez, finished second; the squad exhibition team, led by Wilcox, came in second; and Joseph Davis finished third in the Male Individual Exhibition.
Sgt. Major Linda Gary, who heads the Lakeside JROTC program, said that placing in seven competitions was the program's best finish ever in the state competition.
"I just thank God for the opportunity to be associated with such a fine organization and these exceptional cadets," Gary said. "These kids probably spend more time with me than they do with their own parents."
Sgt. 1st Class Sammie Stokes, of the Evans JROTC, had similar accolades for his cadets.
"They are a dedicated, hardworking group," he said. "I'm proud of them."
Both programs will compete in the National High School Drill Team Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., in May.
Last year, the Lakeside exhibition drill team defeated 75 teams from across the country to win the challenge level competition at nationals. The team also won the regional and state championship.
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