Top Ten and Aiming Higher: Buckingham High Raiders look ahead

Published 2:37 am Wednesday, November 29, 2023

What’s next after placing 10th in the nation? You train to prove your team is the ‘Best of the Best’. That’s what the Buckingham High JROTC Raiders group plans to do over the next few months, preparing for the next part of their ongoing season. 

Their last competition was by no means a walk in the park. The JROTC National Raider Challenge is the annual championship event for JROTC Raider Challenge teams, hosted this year by the U.S. Army Cadet Command for the first time at Fort Knox. From Nov. 2 to Nov. 5, more than 3,000 JROTC cadets from nearly 180 high schools across the country competed to be the best. Out of that number, Buckingham’s squad finished 10th. 

“For our small school to come out against such tough opponents, I’m proud of the kids,” said head coach Bruce Grazier. “Some of those events took 10 to 15 minutes, running almost at a straight incline at times. They fought hard. They earned their way.” 

What is the Buckingham High Raiders program? 

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Now when we say a Raider competition or a Raider program, what do we mean? 

“The Raiders are a step below college level,” Grazier said. “In college, the ROTC competition is called the Rangers. This is the junior program.” 

Raider competitions always take place outdoors and usually consist of individual strength tests, like push-ups, tire-drag and obstacle courses), along with first aid events, distance team running and some rope bridge construction and crossing.  

“There’s a lot of running involved,” Grazier said. “All the running, the weightlifting and all that. Plus for us, you have to be able to run in Cumberland Forest. That’s just the kids putting the work in.” 

Now a Raider year is split up into two seasons. Part one just wrapped up this month at Raider Nationals, where Buckingham claimed 10th place. Part two involves winners competing against each other. Since August, Buckingham’s Raider team has been going to different event across the country.

Winning teams from those events go not just to Nationals, as they did this month, but they get entered into the second part of the season. You can call it the Raider playoffs after a fashion. The Raider teams across the country are divided up for this into regions. Buckingham won their competition in Belle, West Virginia back in October, then also won a competition earlier this month in Newton, North Carolina, so they’ll advance to the regional Best of the Best competition at Fort Bragg in February.

Winners of the regional events then move on to compete against each other, eventually narrowing it down to one final team. To get ready for that, Grazier said there’s a lot of work coming up. 

“We’ll be in the weight room, working on conditioning in the winter,” Grazier said. “Then we’ll get back at it and show what we can do in the spring.”