The pride of the Sedalia School District 200 and community is upon a group of 11 Smith-Cotton female cadets who captured the national title Nov. 1 at the U.S. Army Raider National Championships meet in Molena, Georgia.

“It is with no surprise one of the Raiders teams came home with a National Championship,” Smith-Cotton High School Principal Wade Norton said. “The young women of our winning team are determined, passionate, focused leaders on the course, within the classroom, and throughout our community.

“These character traits of determination, passion, and focus were the keys to winning,” Norton added. “We are so proud of them. We are proud of all JROTC Raiders!”

The team was the first all-female group to compete at the national level. The cadets are chosen to compete based on their interest and desire to be on the team as well as their physical fitness, according to U.S. Army Lt. Col (Ret.) Harry Cunningham.

Cadets competed in four events:

• Gauntlet: a one-mile run with rucksacks and two simulated ammo crates carried through and over several obstacles. S-C placed first.

• Physical Team Test: a one-third mile sprint that challenges the cadets' ability to carry various objects, negotiate obstacles, and work as a team and then return and do the same events in reverse order. S-C placed second.  

• 5K Run: half of this is up a mountain and the return trip is down the mountain. S-C placed first.

• One-rope Bridge: cadets construct a bridge out of one rope across a flowing river and between two trees that are 84 feet apart. All cadets must cross the rope and/or go across the river. S-C placed first.

These are the same events that male and combined teams compete in. According to Cunningham, the cadets worked since July focusing on teamwork and physical fitness.  Specifically, he added, leadership, muscular strength endurance and cardiovascular fitness were key to their success.

“CSM Randall Woods was the coach of the Raider Team this year,” Cunningham noted. “He inspired the team to first focus on leadership and teamwork and encouraged them at every opportunity to learn to work together and to work out on their own. The cadets responded to his direction, came together as a team and accomplished something that at one point in the season seemed impossible.”

While the team has completed their season for this school year, according to Cunningham, the cadets will continue to work out on their own with the support of the JROTC coaches.

"It was truly an honor to coach the Raider team this year,” Woods commented. “This was a growing year for the team; we were very happy with the female team's success.”

The Democrat asked each cadet to respond to three questions: what was the greatest challenge they faced at the event, how will they use the event moving forward, and what lessons they learned from the competition. Responses have been edited for length

Cadet Staff Sgt. Isabelle Ballard

Greatest challenge: My biggest challenge as an individual was wanting to give my all so I didn't fail my team. As a team, I was proud of the way we came together and worked toward a common goal. 

Moving forward: I want to continue to work to improve myself so our team will be better. There are many lessons I learned by participating in Raiders so I will continue with Raiders and carry the lessons of the importance of teamwork with me throughout my life. I will work out throughout the year rather than waiting for the season to begin as a future plan.

Lessons learned: The self-discipline I learned is invaluable and something I think most people would benefit from also learning. I have to keep my grades up, myself in shape, and be a good member of society, all these things are important to me. I also learned the importance of teamwork. You can be a great athlete but if you don't work together as a team, it shows up in the competition. 

Cadet Ashley Fisher

Greatest challenge: I felt like a winner with my team and an individual, I felt like I couldn't do it but I pushed through the pain.

Moving forward: We will, by the way, we will dominate all-Army service, and we got the hearts and courage. 

Lessons learned: Just run your hearts out for the team and also we are strong and encourage (each other). 

Cadet Pvt. Isabella Tsurkan

Greatest challenge: The biggest challenge I faced was doubt, and so did my team. Throughout the year, the feeling that we were not good enough to win any trophies throughout the whole year was tough. Things also kept changing during the year such as people, and practice routines. With even little things changing, it threw us off since we felt we needed every little bit. Thankfully, we overcame that doubt at the right moment giving us hope to win.

Moving forward: I have learned to never give up because all it is, is a mind game.

Lessons learned: I learned a lot from being a Raider. I am planning to use these learned skills in the future in everyday life since I did learn a lot of life skills.

Cadet Madison Lane

Greatest challenge: My biggest thing I faced during the meet was carrying a rucksack through the obstacles. As a team, we faced not trusting each other during some event.

Moving forward: I will succeed by moving forward in Raiders and becoming a better leader. I want to become a commander and help cadets move past what I had to experience. 

Lessons learned: They can do anything in life no matter how hard it is if they work hard enough for it.

Cadet Capt. Hannah Fuji

Greatest Challenge: One of my biggest challenges on an individual level would have to be when I was leading the team on my own before I got the help of Bradbury.

Moving forward: I will use this success as a way to better myself as a leader for next year. My future plans are to continue Raiders next year in the all-Army division. 

Lessons learned: You have to stay calm with people. You have to sometimes slow down and teach something slow for a person to understand what they need to do. 

Cadet Capt. Sarah Bradbury

Greatest challenge: Being the commander of this new team gave me the biggest challenge of not knowing if I was pushing my team enough, or if we were doing better than what our competitors were doing. As a team, it was hard sometimes to have the girls realize their pain was only temporary and that pushing through was the best option to complete the challenge. 

Moving forward: I plan on going to the University of Central Missouri and being a cadet in the ROTC program. I will use the leadership skills I have learned from this year and apply them to be the strongest leader I can be both physically and mentally. I also want to graduate from basic training at the top of my class, so I will be using the physical and mental tools I have acquired from being on Raiders to help me reach that goal.  

Lessons learned: It is crucial to have positive communication throughout the entire team so everyone feels a sense of belonging, and they feel as though they are apart of a family that truly cares about them.

Cadet Lyvie Halvorsen

Greatest challenge: The biggest struggle was coming together as a team. In the beginning, everyone was pulling the sled in a different direction and we were getting nowhere, we didn't work together or trust each other. However, no matter how many competitions we lost, I knew none of us had lost hope. In the end, we never gave up even if there was the slightest chance of becoming champions, we were fighting for it, and once we realized that, we came together to do whatever it takes to get there.

Moving forward: I plan on continuing the next three years with the Raiders. Just winning nationals with these girls isn't the only thing that gave me success, but being here with them from start to finish and realizing what we have become. We started off every competition in dead last, but we never lost hope. This success has taught me that I am not a winner, we are winners because there would be no national champs without each of us. I plan on connecting with the upcoming Raiders and bringing the champion out of them like the upperclassmen did for us. 

Lessons learned: I feel the next generation of Raiders don't need us to win, nor teach. All they need is us to guide them, and if they are willing enough, they'll travel the rest of the way. They just need us to help them realize their true potential and understand that they have what it takes, but they must learn it’ll take everything you got. 

Cadet Andrea Miller

Greatest challenge: My biggest challenge was carrying the water jugs as a team and trust each other to stay strong.

Moving forward: I will use the win moving forward to work harder to get better in JROTC. My future plans are carrying the rucksack during the run.

Lessons learned: I can succeed with hard work and determination along with the team.  

Cadet McKenzie Boeschen

Greatest challenge: I feel the biggest challenge I faced on an individual level was joining Raiders two weeks before nationals. I went to the summer camp, but I decided to go with softball, but then I came back, and that's very difficult to do because Raiders is not an easy simple thing you do — you have to train, train and train and give 120%. As a team, the most difficult challenge was coming together and overcoming the doubt. 

Moving forward: I will use this success to move forward and put in more effort next year and stay with Raiders. My future plans are graduating, getting accepted into the Air Force Academy, and pursuing my college career and graduating into the Air Force as an officer and stick with it.

Lessons learned: Work hard, put in your most effort, don't quit, because it pays off in the end. Sharing your hard work experience with others brings you more together. In Raiders you don't just have friends you have family. 

Cadet Lizbeth Nandho-Rafael

Biggest challenge: The biggest challenge that I faced as an individual was running the 5K up that mountain because it was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I knew I had to keep trying and give it all I had. As a team, the biggest challenge was trusting each other because at the beginning we had no trust in each other, we were strangers at first but then we came along like a big family and care for each other. 

Moving forward: This will help me be successful in the future because I know now if I give it my all to any task I think is impossible, it will be possible for me in the future. I plan to do Raiders all four years and win a ring every year.

Lessons Learned: If you give it your all it will not seem impossible.

Cadet Staff Sgt. Josefina Reyes 

Greatest Challenge: The biggest challenge I faced as an individual and as a team during the meet was setting our minds on what we can accomplish and leaving behind what has already been done. 

Lessons Learned: When you give it your all at everything you will accomplish everything you want it but if you don't give it your all then don’t expect anything.

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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