Varsity NJROTC orienteering team members Kelly Holt, left, and Megan Peek prepare for nationals Wednesday, Feb. 15, in a courtyard at Oak Harbor High School. OHHS placed 14th out of 29 teams. Photo by Dan Warn/Whidbey News-Times

NJROTC orienteering team places 14th at national competition

Oak Harbor High School’s orienteering team placed 14th out of 29 teams at the 2017 Navy JROTC National Orienteering Championship this weekend, Feb. 18-19, in Georgia.

Last year, the team captured second place along with some individual titles. This was the orienteering team’s third trip to nationals.

Everyone contributed toward achieving the team’s goal of heading back to the national stage, said senior Kelly Holt, varsity commander for the team.

“I think it’s a lot of hard work that every single person has put in,” Holt said. “We are a team, but as a sport, they do it individually. So it’s every single one of the cadets’ hard work and effort being put in.

“That’s how we got here.”

“People think it’s (NJROTC) just a military thing, but it’s so much more than that. It’s leadership. We’re all working together to do all these different things — community service, learn leadership,” said varsity team member Megan Peek, a junior. “It’s a really great program.”

“This is my second year,” Peek said. “My brother was actually the team commander for two years. He was a national champion (individual). So he convinced me to start and I loved it.”

In fact, Holt succeeded Peek’s brother in leading the team.

“I joined when I was a sophomore, so this is my third year,” Holt said. “I just liked it so much, I did it again, and I did it this year and became commander, so that’s pretty great.”

Holt and Peek each attended nationals for a second time.

“Orienteering is cross country with a map and no definite route,” explained Marc Deleuze, orienteering advisor. “You get the map and you decide what route it is. And yes, time counts. So with cross country — you’ve got a route — all you’ve gotta do is stay between the flags. But there’s no flags here. So, here’s your map. Run.”

At nationals, teams cover a minimum of 5.2 kilometers. Depending on the route they choose, however, they could run up to 7.5 km when all is said and done.

Holt said the running aspect was the reason he was drawn to the sport, but the added critical thinking made the activity stick.

“I like running in general, but now that I have a purpose — it’s like a big treasure hunt, basically, and that’s pretty fun,” Holt said. “You run around the woods and experience nature and you’re having fun at the same time.”

“Basically it’s just a scavenger hunt in the middle of the woods,” Peek said.

“You go out in the nature, or the woods, and you have a map, a compass and a whistle,” Holt said. “The whistle is if you get lost, and then the compass is to help you figure out where you are on that map.

“So you have a bunch of little dots on that map and you have to figure out: ‘OK, I’m here, I have to get to this dot in the map, that dot in the map and this dot in the map in chronological order.’ So you just run around and don’t get lost.”

Varsity boys have 16 such checkpoints to navigate through, Deleuze said. Varsity girls cover 13. He said that the JV team will provide valuable points for Oak Harbor as they navigate through their 13 or 14 checkpoints.

Team members are developing the ability to think independently, are learning about self reliance and beginning to see the consequences of their own decision making, Deleuze said.

“There’s no lineman down the line that you can blame the bad play on,” he said. “It’s you.”

“I love just like being out there,” Peek said. “You’re on your own, you’re trying to think on your feet, working towards a goal. You have to think about it, and you have to know where you’re going to go and plan. It’s just a really good skill for life in general.”

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