It may have been Saturday morning, but there would be no sleeping in.
Feet hit the floor early for some 600 JROTC cadets from 15 Florida high schools who descended upon J.W. Mitchell High around 7 a.m. on Oct. 5 to strut their stuff on the field, in the gymnasium and in the classroom at the school's seventh annual Mustang Stampede field meet.
Among the events cadets competed in: unarmed and armed basic and exhibition drills, color guard, pushup and situp contests, 100- and 200-meter relays and academics.
It was a "three-fer" for Gulf High's Navy JROTC. After totaling their scores, they came away with First Overall for the third year in row, securing a spot in the state championship down the road along with Brooksville's Central High and Tampa's Gaither High NJROTC programs, which placed second and third respectively.
"We love coming here. Mitchell does a fine job," said retired Navy Cmdr. John McGuire, who serves as instructor for the Gulf High NJROTC along with Chief Jose Rodriguez. They will host their own athletic fun meet for JROTC cadets in the spring. "And it's important for the kids to get a sense of what it's like to be on a team. After all that practice they get to show what they have learned."
"We've done it twice before, but this time it feels so real," said Gulf High Cadet Lt. Brooke Sheehan, 18. "It's (my) senior year, and we're going out in first place."
Local military recruiters, Navy and Army ROTC cadets from the University of South Florida and representatives from SOCOM (Special Operations Command ),U.S. Central Command and NAVCENT (United States Naval Forces Central Command) served as judges. The meet was hosted by Mitchell High cadets under the leadership of retired Navy Cmdr. Steve Okun and Marine Gunnery Sgt. Freddie Jones.
And while they did not compete, Mitchell cadets also came away with some valuable experience, Okun said. "It's important for them because it teaches them organization and management planning. Plus it's an opportunity for them to show off their school."
Michele Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.