ROTC earns a second-place trophy at Nationals

Published 3:37 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Air Force Junior ROTC Drill Team finished third overall in regulation events at the prestigious Daytona Nationals in Daytona Beach, Fla., earlier this month.

The team’s success was led by Cadet Commander Derrick Akins’ Color Guard that finished the tough competition with a second-place trophy.

Cadet Jessica Merritt led her drill team to a sixth-place in inspection and 10th-place in regulation drill. These combined results put Bainbridge at third overall against teams from all four military branches and from across the nation. It was the team’s best overall finish in 10 years of competing at this toughest of all drill competitions.

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Although the team has had trophy success in the past at The Nationals, the second-place trophy by Cadet Akins’ Color Guard is the highest placement any of the teams have ever achieved.

“It was exciting to watch this color guard that finished sixth place last year come back and challenge for the championship trophy this year,” said Col. Gary Breedlove. “We have never had a complete team return for this competition. These guys, Derrick Akins, Erick Juarez, Darren Good and Adam Anderson were determined to stay focused on successful competition this year. I didn’t see the first-place team perform, but they must have been perfect because our team was very impressive. Also, the second-place trophy made it a clean sweep for Cadet Akins’ Color Guard this school year. They earned a trophy at every competition, from last September through the Daytona Nationals.”

Cadet Jessica Merritt led her team through several cadet changes to compete successfully at the event.

“Jessica got us started as cadet commander this school year and has been an outstanding leader throughout her four years,” Breedlove said. “For her, this competition completes an amazing record of leading or being a member of a team that ‘placed’ in a competition over the past four years. I don’t think anyone has ever been a part of as many team successes as Jessica Merritt. I believe we will realize her impact more when we start back with next year without her.”

The success at Daytona completes one of the most successful drill years in the history of the Bainbridge program.

In seven different competitions, the team won three overall championships, two second-place overall finishes, and won trophies at the two national competitions this school year.

“This group, led by or seniors, has really stayed focused throughout the year. They have not walked away from any competition empty handed. We’ve had to make some adjustments, but the team was determined to leave an impressive record as they depart the current high school. I was very impressed with their consistency and dedicated leadership,” Col. Breedlove said.