Drill team competes at regional event, has high hopes for next year

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United States Marine Corps 1st Sgt. David Worthy, Farragut’s new drill team coach, intends on having Farragut participate at the NJROTC Nationals on a consistent basis, starting with next year’s Corps of Cadets.

“That’s what we’re shooting for,” said Worthy, who replaced long-time director Steve Edwards. “This is big league. I told them it’s the difference between playing small ball or pro ball. Do you want to be on the pee wee football team or be in the National Football League?”

Worthy and Naval Science Commander Rick Schock have formulated a plan that includes building mastery in all competitive teams, including unarmed basic, unarmed exhibition, armed basic, armed exhibition, color guard, personnel inspection, academic, and physical training.

“I want our team to have character, first and foremost,” said Worthy, whose 30 years of experience in drill includes two tours as a drill instructor with the U.S. Marine Corps. “I believe what drill does is build character through the willing obedience to order, responding in the appropriate way, performing under pressure. I’m interested in them being professional, developing their character and handling pressure. If they follow through with those elements, participating in the Nationals and winning national titles will be the byproduct.”

On Saturday, January 23, the Farragut drill team competed in the Area 7 National Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) Drill Competition, placing 10th out of 17 high schools from the counties encompassing the Tampa Bay region. Fifty-two trophies were awarded: Five for the Individual Drill Category, three for Armed Exhibition Category, twenty-one for the Color Guard Category, twenty-one for the Drill Team Category, one for the Best of Meet and one for Overall Excellence.

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Farragut placed fifth in the Academic portion, its highest finish in the event.

While Farragut won’t be competing in the National Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) Nationals this year, Schock and Worthy anticipate what the future holds, based off their first competition in which every team was involved.  

“Our kids did incredibly well, especially considering it was cold and rainy,” said Schock, who coached the Dunedin drill team to several appearances in the Nationals. “To think we didn’t have these teams and to have them compete with some of the best programs in the country now is saying something.”

The teams have to perform several drill routines, all designed to show precision and teamwork. While not all JROTC members are destined for careers in the military, Schock said that the programs offer life skills to help them succeed in school and beyond.

“These kids rose to the occasion with the proper discipline needed to succeed in life,” Schock said. “It’s everything you want in competition. It tests their mind, their body, their character.”

Eventually, Schock and Worthy expect the Farragut drill team to be competing at the National High School Drill Team Championships, which is considered to be the largest and most well-recognized collection of drill & ceremony talent ever assembled in a single weekend. Over 100,000 cadets, instructors and parents typically attend an event that includes drill teams from the four primary branches of the military and is internationally recognized as “the most comprehensive test of overall JROTC training and performance in existence today,” according to Worthy.

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Worthy believes he has the foundation for success, primarily due to the leadership of Kyndal Olander ’17 and Alex Wilkins ’16, respective commanders of the armed and unarmed teams.

“Those are two dynamic young ladies,” said Worthy, who guided his high school team in North Carolina to a national title in 2013. “When they speak, everyone else listens. The foundation starts with them, understanding regulation drill. A great team has basic regulation drill. Left, right, face forward. They have that down. My drill team commanders need to understand the book, teach it, know how to correct things, give constructive criticism. Know it and deliver it. They have demonstrated that type of leadership and beyond.”

Worthy illustrated how Alex has been instrumental in leading a group of 15 girls in the unarmed division.

“She’s taken on the task of leading a group of all female cadets, something Farragut never has had,” Worthy said. “Her type of leadership is a big reason why this time next year, I will be able to sit in here in my office and tell the commanders to get the drill team ready and soon thereafter, I will be able to go out and immediately start practice.”

For Alex, it has been a chance to grow, as well.

“I admit that I struggled to succeed when I first arrived here,” said Alex, who has been a seven-day boarder since her 7th grade year. “This past year, I’ve really matured. Through the guidance and mentoring of 1st Sgt. Worthy and Commander Schock, I have learned a lot about myself and I have become more confident about who I am.”

Alex emphasized how her decision to join the Marine Corps following graduation would never have come about had she not attended Farragut.

“Being here at Farragut and being a part of something like drill has given me the inner strength to accomplish anything I put my mind to,” said Alex, who has played basketball and soccer during her time at Farragut.

For Worthy, seeing people like Alex overcome challenges and pushing her peers to excellence encompasses the pride level he is trying to develop.

“Most of the time at a tournament, there are 13 cadets in an event, competing,” Worthy said. “Thus, it takes 26 legs marching in unison to win a championship. What we do here depends on that cohesion, that togetherness. I want them to be proud of what they do because they represent character, integrity, professionalism. When dignitaries visit, they call upon the drill team. When people call upon Farragut to represent the school, the drill team steps to the plate. Therefore, the pride of Admiral Farragut Academy becomes the drill team and vice versa, which ultimately defines our brand.”

By Chris Girandola, Senior Staff Writer, Admiral Farragut Academy