No matter what obstacles lie in his path, GMC Prep cadet Walker Bloodworth overcomes them.
The sophomore showed that late last month when he won the Army JROTC national Ultimate Raider competition in Molena, Ga., making him both GMC’s first male and youngest cadet to obtain the honor.
Raider competitions, or simply “Raiders” as they are known around GMC, are all about physical and mental strength and toughness. Sponsored by the U.S. Army, Raiders pits teams of JROTC cadets against one another across events like distance running, timed rope bridge construction and crossing, and obstacle courses. Once teams reach nationals, they may also enter cadets in the Ultimate Raider challenge, which is a two-mile course that includes a cross country run with a 35-pound rucksack, a low crawl, and finally scaling an 8-foot wall. In an incredible show of “intestinal fortitude” as his Raider coach Maj. Todd Van Dine called it, Bloodworth finished the individual course with a blazing-fast time of 11:26, which was more than a minute and a half better than anyone else in the field of 25 males.
“I’m glad I didn’t quit,” Bloodworth said. “I was proud of myself for giving everything I had, and I was thankful to Van Dine for the opportunity he gave me.”
“Walker has that ability to push through mentally and physically,” Van Dine added. “That’s why he’s ahead of his peers and seniors. He feels the pain, but he’s able to continue to push through. What he did that day was truly amazing.”
Making the individual feat even more impressive is the fact that just earlier in the day at the Gerald Lawhorn Boy Scout Camp, Bloodworth helped lead the GMC Prep all-male Raider team to a fifth-place finish nationally. Normally the team and individual competitions are held on different days, but all that changed this year due to COVID, as did when the entire event was held. Raider Nationals usually take place the first weekend of November, but organizers were cautious this year in light of the pandemic. So Bloodworth completed the team event with no alternates subbing in as would traditionally be the case, and readied himself for another grueling round without any teammates backing him up.
“I really had to convince myself that I still had it in me to push through another race and go the extra mile,” the sophomore said. “I was worn out after everything I had already done, but I wasn’t about to give up after all the training Major Van Dine’s put me through. It was just a matter of getting it done and doing it as fast as I could.”
The 2021 Ultimate Raider shared that the cross country run was the most difficult part of the race.
“You’re completely isolated in the woods with no idea of how far you’ve got to go,” he said. “You don't see anyone. It’s just a course in front of you, and you have to will yourself to carry on.”
And carry on he did, out of the woods and through the low crawl before scaling the final obstacle to stop the clock.
Van Dine pointed out that Bloodworth’s accomplishment is an example of what the Raiders program provides to cadets who take it seriously.
“They become mentally strong,” Van Dine said. “I’ve had so many Raiders reach back out to me after they go to college and say ‘I wouldn’t be able to make it through where I am now if it wasn’t for what you taught us. Now I can sit back and laugh at my peers sometimes when they’re stressed because what they’re going through is nothing compared to what you put us through.’ We all have obstacles in life, so it’s about being mentally tough enough to get through them.”
GMC Prep has collected its fair share of state and national Raider hardware since the school added the program. This year, one GMC Prep mixed team earned second place in the all-service competition while the other mixed team and all-male team finished fifth in the Army JROTC ranks.
With him only being a sophomore, Bloodworth now has his eyes on becoming GMC Prep’s ultimate, Ultimate Raider. Class of 2019 graduate Lyssa Blair finished her career with two Ultimate Raider titles to her name, and Bloodworth is currently in the unique position of having two years remaining to tie and maybe even better her mark.
“Hopefully nothing at this point,” he said on what’s stopping him from achieving that goal. “I’ve been through it and know I can do it. Now I’ve just got to train harder and try to set some records.
“I want to say thank you to Van Dine, family, friends, peers and anyone who’s supported me. It’s been overwhelming and surreal at times, especially once I finished the race. The rush of it was insane.”
Before trying to add more Ultimate Raider accolades, Bloodworth will try to keep his successful sophomore year rolling by maybe earning some track titles this spring.