Story by Sally Litchfield, Marietta Daily Journal
Hillgrove High School Navy JROTC cadets are national champions. Twenty-nine Orienteering teams from all corners of the country recently converged on Vasquez Rocks Natural Area in Agua Dulce, California, near Los Angeles, where Hillgrove won this year’s Navy JROTC Orienteering Championship. The annual competition brings the best orienteers from nearly 600 NJROTC units from around the country together to test their navigation skills in locating controls (checkpoints) in unfamiliar and rough terrain with only the aid of a map and a compass.
Hillgrove’s cadets made their fourth consecutive appearance at the national competition and were one of five schools representing Georgia and Northeast FL. After finishing third, second, and second in the nation the past three years, Hillgrove’s Orienteers were able to take the final step in capturing their first Championship; and, they did it in dominating fashion.
Hillgrove nearly swept all team categories, with the Varsity team easily capturing first, Junior Varsity placing second and the Freshman finishing first. Overall, Hillgrove captured a total of 480 of a possible 500 points, well ahead of the second place total of 370. Individually, 11 of Hillgrove’s 14 competitors received medals, all placing in the top five for the two-day competition, in their respective categories.
Outstanding individual performances were turned in by Jacob Gallichio, who is the male Varsity champion, and Mason Blum, who finished second. Jennifer Harnage is the female Varsity champion for the second consecutive year, with Mary Smith finishing second. In the female JV category, Nadia Daraseng captured the title, with Elena Mortensen finishing second and Eslen Trumble fifth. Peyton Valencia was fifth in the male JV category and in the 9th grade division, Keyana Fields won the girls competition and Luke Ballentine and Lucas Schultz finished third and fifth, respectively.
Cadets, most of whom had never traveled to California, also had the opportunity to explore the area with visits to see the Hollywood sign, Santa Monica Pier, Rodeo Drive, Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a day at Universal Studios. Hillgrove’s cadets and parents would like to thank the individuals and local businesses that supported them with generous donations made to help offset the significant cost of travel. While enjoying their new title of National Champions, Hillgrove’s cadets are already preparing to defend their title at next year’s nationals, currently planned for Eastern Pennsylvania.