Henry NJROTC Orienteering Team are best in nation

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Best in the nation, four years straight.

That’s what the orienteering team in Henry County High School’s NJROTC program has accomplished. Specifically, the team has won the past two Navy Nationals and the last four U.S. national competitions.

The Henry County High School Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Orienteering Team. Special photo

Under the direction of Senior Chief David Moss (USN, retired), students are showing their abilities in a sport that is akin to a cross-country run combined with a scavenger hunt. It’s not much of a spectator sport, as competitors disappear immediately into the woods at the start of a race and don’t resurface until they reach the finish line, but that hasn’t stopped from having a strong following at events across the country, including Los Angeles and Seattle the past three years.

Orienteering as a sport evolved from its initial status as a military training activity, with soldiers navigating through the woods with maps in search of colored markers in a timed event. As with most other pursuits, technology has taken it a step farther. The HCHS team members compete with electronic sticks attached to their fingers, and they insert them into corresponding boxes at each location during a meet to register their presence.

“It’s 50 percent knowledge and 50 percent athletic ability,” Moss said when describing what is required to be successful in the sport.

The HCHS competitors, 24 of them, form two very competitive teams according to Moss. They are drawn from a pool of students in the school’s ROTC program, which this year numbers just over 160.

This year’s Navy Nationals, after two years on the West coast, took place in Cartersville at Red Top Mountain State Park. It was one of four national meets the team participates in every year.

Moss directs Georgia Orienteering Advanced Training each summer, a camp operated at Hard Labor State Park in conjunction with the Georgia Orienteering Club. “The foundation of our team comes from that,” he said, emphasizing the year-round aspect of the training required to compete at a top level. “All of our team members have to go through it to be in the program next year.”

Shania Rodney, a senior and team captain, was the top female in Navy and all-service competition this year, only her second year overall. She plans to join the U.S. Navy after completing high school.

“This program has helped me in multiple ways,” she said. “I’ve sharpened a lot of skills and become a better person. I was very shy and reserved when I started, and now I am much better at speaking in public and interacting with others.”

That sentiment is shared by Harold Jarquin, a sophomore and assistant captain who referred to himself as “quiet” and “not every active” before joining the program.

“I have improved a lot in leadership skills and discipline,” he said. “I want to help others who follow me be the best they can be.”

That is the secret, Moss pointed out, of his team’s success.

“It’s our upperclassmen training our up-and-coming students,” he said. “Not just the coaches, but our skilled and trained students teaching the others.”