Photo courtesy WHS JROTC
FIT—Team Dakota included WHS cadets (standing, back row) third from the left sophomore Keegan Norman, sixth from the left sophomore Matthew Small and seventh junior Jacob Gebauer and (kneeling, row two) second from the left senior Johnn De Dieu join members of the Pine Ridge JROTC team. Also pictured are Darla Black, Tribal VP of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (far left) and Mike Stinnett, National Director of JROTC (far right).

JROTC members represent S.D. in Daytona Beach event
WHS students join with Pine Ridge team

By Jake Smith

While the vast majority of WHS Warriors were enjoying HonorFest week, four WHS Army JROTC cadets were off on a different quest. 

Senior Johnn De Dieu, junior Jacob Gebauer and sophomores Keegan Norman and Matthew Small participated in the JROTC National Fitness Challenge Championships (NFCC) at Daytona Beach, Fla. 

The Pine Ridge Army JROTC had been invited to compete at the NFCC, but were unable to field a full team.  In March, the Pine Ridge team reached out to WHS to see if any Warriors would be interested in filling out the team.  The four mentioned cadets volunteered (along with several others) and trained for the last month to prepare for this event.

The NFCC consisted of five events, including a 3K team run in the sand, a pull-up/flex arm hang, seated power throw, standing broad jump and a team fitness challenge on an obstacle course consisting of a tunnel crawl, corridor weave, tire run, sled pull over an 1/8 mile course and then the events repeated in reverse order.  The contestants received a commemorative T-shirt, medallion and certificate along with a team photo.

Norman said it was fun.

“We had a good time in Florida,” Norman said. “I was very proud of how we performed over the weekend and was very satisfied when it was all said and done.”

This is the first year that a team from South Dakota had competed, and there was a lot of high-powered visibility shown on Team Dakota.  Major General Christopher Hughes, the Commanding General for Cadet Command, and Command Sergeant Major Mario Terenas ran with the cadets from South Dakota as a show of support for the team.

One special moment arose as the female cadets from Pine Ridge all wore a palm print in face paint over their mouths to signify indigenous women who have disappeared or been murdered. 

Also attending the competition was the Tribal Vice President for Oglala Sioux Tribe Darla Black, who was impressed.

“It is good to see these two groups of youth get together, and with no extra preparation be able to compete together, exhibit the team spirit that they did and to hold themselves in high regard for performing their best with this new experience,” Black said. “I am proud of them.”


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