Thirty-nine teams representing 20 schools were in town for the annual GMC Bulldog Invitational Raider Challenge Saturday, but the top prizes all went to the same place.
Georgia Military College Preparatory School defended its home turf in a big way, taking on all comers to sweep the male, female, and mixed team championships. The day-long meet was held around the school’s football practice fields and the Oconee River Greenway. According to GMC officials, this year’s Bulldog Invitational Raider Challenge brought approximately 1,400 people to the local campus, competitors and supporters included.
Modeled after the ROTC Ranger Challenge, Raider competitions pit high school JROTC programs against one another across several timed events, including: a team run, obstacle course, rope bridge, cross country rescue, and the gauntlet. Teamwork, determination, focus, and stamina are all must-haves when it comes to these grueling competitions that see cadets zipping across a suspended rope bridge (over land) one minute and flipping a tire the next.
GMC Prep had all of those necessary attributes and then some on its home course Saturday. Out of the five events previously mentioned, GMC’s all-male team took first in four of them with the team run (second place) being the lone exception. The all-female squad replicated those results to a T, and the mixed team earned three firsts with a second in the cross country rescue and a fourth in the rope bridge.
Head GMC Raider coach Maj. Todd Van Dine said Saturday was the third out of five “regular season” meets for his cadets. Performances have been getting better and better as the season has progressed.
“The teams are continuing to improve on every event,” Van Dine said. “We’re still making some minor mental errors, but they know that in order to win state we’ll have to dress those up. I think once we do that we’ll be good. It looks like we’re going to peak right when we need to.”
A couple more meets lie between now and the state and national competitions. GMC will head to Cedar Shoals High School in Athens and then Hiram to close out the regular season. State is being held at Spalding High School in Griffin at the end of this month, and nationals are the first weekend in November in Molena, Ga.
GMC Prep’s focus until those massive meets is continued improvement. If that happens, a state sweep is entirely within the realm of possibility, and Major Van Dine believes his all-male team at the very least can make its mark at nationals. Each competition is set up differently, meaning there is no real standard for events. Teams can be tailored for different meets based on what challenges lie ahead.
“Nationals is set up for our [male] team because there’s no heavy lifting,” said Van Dine. “It’s all speed, and the male team is put together for speed, so we should sit pretty good.”