Wildcats march to top of division / NJROTC

Like a snowball running down hill, the Oak Harbor High School Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps competitive teams keep adding to their mass — in this case, hardware to their trophy case — year after year.

Wildcat Battalion has dominated its opponents for decades and continued that trend Saturday, wrapping up another overall title in the seven-team Olympic Division.

Oak Harbor, which is led by Chief Bill Thiel and Commander Mike Black, is joined in the division by Burlington-Edison, Marysville, Everett, Snohomish, Arlington and Mount Tahoma.

Next up is the regional meet, featuring 31 schools from the Pacific Northwest, Saturday, March 18, at Puyallup’s Rogers High School.

Oak Harbor’s success, Thiel said, is self-fulfilling.

“The cadets in our program see the trophies and plaques that are hanging on our walls in the classroom and in the trophy cases throughout the school, and they want to continue the legacy that the former cadets have set for our program,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, I explain to the cadets that we have standards and that we have a very good reputation among our drill conference. If they don’t perform at that level, then we will work harder and smarter to ensure that we can make it to the top of the division and conference.”

Senior cadet James Williams called Oak Harbor’s success “self-perpetuating.”

He said if new cadets aren’t up to the expected standards, they will be called out.

“However, we don’t leave it at that,” Williams said. “We will teach them how to be better.”

“We don’t expect to be perfect; that is impossible,” he added. “But, it is a good goal to try to achieve.”

Wildcat Battalion practices like it is competing, according to Thiel, and that makes the actual competitions less stressful.

“When these cadets put on their uniforms, they change — they walk taller, are more respectful towards everyone, and when they march onto the drill floor, it is where they feel comfortable and they know that is where they shine.”

Both Thiel and Williams said the familial atmosphere of the unit helps lead to success.

“Our teams treat each other like an extended family and they always take care of each other,” Thiel said.

“There’s a kinship,” Williams said. “I am going to help you get better, and, at the same time by helping you, I am making myself better.”

This year’s team has continued Oak Harbor’s winning tradition through hard work, Thiel said.

The team members show up for 6 a.m. practice from Oct. 1 through March.

A code of conduct and academic expectations ensure the cadets are dedicated to their teams, according to Thiel.

The goal of the program is that those involved “take with them the feeling of accomplishment and pride,” Thiel said. “Not everyone can be an athlete, but they are able to teach themselves self-control, self-discipline, selflessness, dedication and being able to follow directions.”

He noted that these lessons are on display when cadets return to Oak Harbor.

“I had quite a few of my former cadets, both in uniform and civilian clothing, assisting me throughout the day on Saturday,” he said. “They showed up and asked if there was anything they could do to help make the day run smoothly.”

These former students were joined Saturday by volunteers from CNATTU, MTOC-10, VAQ-140 and ASTC/NHOH, as well as by recruiters and recently retired sailors.

“We couldn’t do these competitions without their help,” Thiel said.

Wildcats protect home turf

Host Oak Harbor won three of the six team competitions and six of the nine individual events Saturday.

The precision and sporter rifle teams and the physical fitness squad each took home titles.

The color guard and unarmed drill teams finished second, and the armed drill team was third.

Elena Flake, Julia Flake, Austin McBride and Mia Gehrmann swept the top four spots in precision air rifle, while Steven Richards, Michael White, Jason Montano and Lauren Crossley were 1-2-4-5 in sporter rifle.

Chante Powell (first), Autumn Coker (second), Taylor Kesler (fourth) and Shaina Aguirre (fifth) captured four of the top five spots in ironwoman physical strength.

In ironman, Jose Cabigting, Alex Hartley and Dylan Sanchez took first, second and fourth.

Royce Abuda finished first in unarmed drill down, Noel Pangilinan was second in unarmed commander and Jonathan Francisco finished fifth in armed commander.

In dual armed exhibition drill, Francisco and Dylan Angel were first, and Kyle Torres and Joseph Dixon took third.

Kelvin Canonizado and Jhaylan Munger captured dual unarmed exhibition drill, while Deither Tabucol and Kanoa King were fifth.

For the season, the armed drill team, physical strength No. 1 and the two rifle teams all placed first in the overall divisional standings. Physical strength No. 2 and color guard No. 2 were second and color guard No. 1 was third.

The division’s top three teams in each event qualify for the regional competition.

Based upon the combined results of all the teams, Wildcat Battalion was declared the overall division champion — again.