By Scott A. Thornbloom, Naval Service Training Command Public Affairs
PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- For a second consecutive year, Las Vegas' Centennial High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) unit hit the jackpot at the Navy JROTC Nationals competition April 9-10.
In just their second appearance at Nationals, Centennial clinched the narrowest of victories in the event's 12-year history by edging Shawnee Mission High School of Overland Park, Kansas by three points. There were 26 teams participating in the Nationals competition representing 14 states.
"This means a lot to us," said Centennial's Battalion Cadet Cmdr. Keyawa Danai, 18, a senior who will be attending the U.S. Naval Academy next year.
"It shows that we're not just a program that can do it once but can do it twice. It shows we have great leadership that has been passed down through the years."
Centennial collected three first, three second and three third-place trophies in Academic, Athletic and Drill competitions during the two-day event leading to their overall championship. They also picked up one fourth and one fifth place trophy.
"Our kids are awesome," said the senior naval science instructor for Centennial, retired Navy Capt. Ed Hardeman.
"Of the 46 cadets we brought, 25 are new and here for the first time. We only had one other drill meet against more than one school this year. And what these cadets have done, keeping up their grades and appearance, and coming here and accomplishing something that hasn't been done in the last four years and something that has only been done once (winning consecutive titles) in the last 14 years, is truly unbelievable."
Naval Education and Training Command (NETC), Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola and Naval Air Technical Training Center Pensacola co-hosted the event, which drew more than 1,500 cadets, naval science instructors, chaperones and family members from across the U.S.
"This 2010 event marks a new era in NJROTC competitive excellence," said retired Navy Cmdr. Mark Watson, the NJROTC operations officer for NSTC's Citizenship Development directorate.
"It is the culminating event for 26 teams that have competed in regional competitions across the nation over the past six months, in order to earn a spot at the national championship event. The competitive events focus on building teamwork, academic excellence and athleticism showcasing the Navy's top-performing NJROTC units."
The personnel inspections, academic tests, military drill and athletic competitions were each worth points. Centennial amassed a total of 5,024 points, just three more points than Overland Park, Kansas' Shawnee Mission North High School (5,021). The top five teams received overall trophies. Boca Raton (Fla.) finished third with 4,832 points; previous 10-time champion Flour Bluff High School (Corpus Christi, Texas) was fourth with 4,782 and Troy High School (Fullerton, Calif.) came in fifth with 4,709 points.
Silver Bluff High School from Aiken, S.C., was named the recipient of the prestigious Captain Jim Harvey Award recognizing the NJROTC unit that displays the highest degree of military decorum, personal conduct and spirit throughout the entire competition. "I can not believe it," said retired Radioman 1st Class and Centennial Naval Science Instructor Gail Johnson. "In October, we had 25 freshmen on a 40-person team and I thought there was no way we'd get back here. But we did and it's all because of the dedication of the kids. They worked really hard and they really wanted it."
All of the 26 NJROTC units earned their way to Nationals by excelling in regional competitions and being nominated to attend.
The Nationals competition was held at the Naval Air Technical Training Center's Chevalier Hall and on the NAS Pensacola Track and Parade Field. It was judged by more than 40 Navy instructors and Marine Corps drill instructors from Officer Training Command, Newport, R. I., and Marine Aviation Training Support Group 21, NAS Pensacola.
The awards ceremony April 10 was held at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, NAS Pensacola, and was attended by guest speaker and Nationals champion awards presenter, Rear Adm. Joseph Kilkenny, commander, NETC.
"I made a point of going out to see some of the competition over the past two days," Kilkenny said."The academic, athletic and military knowledge, skills and abilities exhibited by you all were exceptional."
The NJROTC program mission is to instill in students in United States secondary educational institutions the values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment. NSTC, which falls under NETC, oversees more than 600 NJROTC units worldwide.