Over the river and through the woods
| Kelsea Renz managing editor |
ROTC cadets proved their physical and mental strength this weekend at the Buddy Ranger Challenge on Saturday, April 19, at the University of Kansas.
Pitt State ROTC placed second overall out of 44 schools.
“I’m very proud that a lower-division school like ours could take on those big schools and do well,” said Mst. Sgt., retired, Sam Haskins, instructor of military science.
The ROTC program sent eight teams of two – five male, two co-ed and one female – to compete. A total of 239 teams competed in the challenge.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Shannon Ahlstedt, junior in marketing. “It helped having a key leader, who had been there for four years, as a partner. She was constantly a motivating factor.”
Ahlstedt and her partner, Kristina Willis, won the event in the female division.
“During the event, I was constantly thinking that I had to push through. I couldn’t think about how much it hurt,” Ahlstedt said. “After we finished, I had super satisfaction saying that I did this, that I won this.”
Two other teams placed in the top 10 of their divisions: the male team of Keith Weaver and Jesse Colver took fourth, and the coed team of Kevin Mendez and Kada Barbour took seventh.
The cadets were encouraged by the amount of support they received during the training and the event.
“It was amazing. On the last lane, while we were sprinting through a dense forest to the finish, three of the instructors were running behind us cheering us on,” Ahlstedt said.
The teams have been training under John Fatkin, senior in history, since February.
“We started with physical training, doing runs up to 12 miles,” Fatkin said. “Then we established the teams and have worked on technical skills. We’ve held the teams accountable to be in top shape on their own.”
Fatkin put teams together differently this year than in the past, with the focus more on developing the underclassmen in the program.
“This year we strategically picked teams. We tried to pair underclassmen with upperclassmen,” he said. “If they place, it gives the underclassmen confidence for the next year and gives more competitive teams on the field.”
The event this year started with a roughly 9 mile run with a 35 pound rucksack. Only the top 145 teams moved on to the next part.
The second part of the challenge had six lanes that had various technical skills for the teams to complete.
“The toughest lane for us was the medical lane,” Ahlstedt said. “We had to carry a litter with a dummy that weighed 185 pounds up and down hills. It was the second-to-last lane, too, so we were already dead tired.”
Following the lanes, the teams had to sprint another 3.5 miles to the finish.
“The end of that run was the hardest part for me,” Ahlstedt said. “I was hanging onto Kristina’s lbv (load-bearing vest) just trying to keep moving. But it was so worth it.”