Morning, evening or night, senior Kendrick Richardson will more than likely be found at Montrose High School.
The Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps commanding officer joked he spends so much with the NJROTC he sees Chief John Boughton more than his mother.
But every quip has a kernel of truth. Richardson said he spends at least a couple of hours before and after school with the corps.
The long hours have paid off as, under his command, the MHS NJROTC has started the year just like they ended 2017: state champions.
The unit won in physical fitness, academics and drill events. That helped MHS place first as a team in the JROTC state drill meet on Saturday at Widefield High School in Colorado Springs. It marked the third year in a row MHS captured the drill state title.
“It’s a huge relief finally winning,” Richardson said. “I think for most of our leadership, maintaining that state title was one of the biggest stresses. Now that it’s over, I can’t even explain how much of a relief that is.”
MHS went up against five other area high school navy units, as well as two army teams, during the competition.
According to cadet lieutenant Chase Frenze, who was also the ops officer and armed drill commander, being the champion has its own challenges. But, he added, remaining on top was a whole different obstacle.
“It’s a big deal that we won a third time,” Frenze said. “Once you are a state champion, taking the hill is one thing, but defending it is another. So you’ve got to keep defending the hill … Everybody is trying to beat us because they want to be state champions themselves. So for us, it’s a lot of training and getting ready again to defend and keep our state champion title.”
Richardson added he and his teammates never got intimidated by their opponents.
“People know we are confident,” Richardson said. “People know that we are good at what we do and a part of us know we have to prove that every year.”
Despite the recent success, Boughton explained that wasn’t always the case. He noted the cadets would be fortunate if they did well in a single competition.
“It’s pretty huge for these guys,” Boughton said. “Considering 10-12 years ago, we would be lucky if we got one event we placed in.”
With that in mind, he and Capt. Lance Bach both said they were pleased with the students’ accomplishments over the weekend. Boughton added for the cadets to be state champions means having the drive to put in the hours to perfect their craft.
“You have to get 38-40 students engaged for several months coming into practices as early as 6 a.m. and then staying here until 5 or 6 p.m.,” Boughton said. “It’s quite a feat, but these are really engaged young people.”
Bach credited the older students for their leadership skills.
“There’s a lot of dedication amongst these cadets,” Bach said. “I think some of the seniors set the example by the hours they put in and then the underclassmen, they follow suit. It’s about teamwork and working toward a common purpose.”
According to Richardson, doing these different kinds of routines, however, doesn’t fully surround what the unit does.
“There’s a lot of logistics behind the many moving pieces in this unit that people don’t understand,” Richardson said. “There’s a lot of paperwork, promotions and writing Thank You cards. We do a lot here.”
One of those aspects is marksmanship. That Montrose NJROTC team, which won state, preps for nationals, which are set for Feb. 8-10 in Phoenix.
Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ education/sports reporter. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.