Over 800 teams started in the nationwide tournament, but only 16 teams qualified to compete in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Academic Bowl National Championships in Washington, D.C. this month. The O’Fallon Township High School's team will be one of them.
"This is just a really big opportunity for us to represent the corps, and represent our community and the school," Cadet Staff Sgt. Simoriah Longhorn and the OTHS team's captain said of the national contest set for June 22-26 at the Catholic University of America..
"When we first got the news that we were one of the top 16 teams to make it, we were all kind of shocked, because our first goal was to have fun and see how far we could get. But now that we've made it to the finals, we really want to win," said Cadet Capt. Ryan Komm.
"It's a big deal, and we are really excited to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and to be representing our school and corps," said Cadet Staff Sgt. Joseph Estrada.
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The OTHS Air Force JROTC students have been hitting the books, as well as taking online SAT/ACT preparation quizzes to mentally prepare for the competition, which is college bowl-type game, where students hit buzzers in order to get the chance to answer questions.
"It's kind of like scholar bowl, or like trivia, but more focused on JROTC and current event questions that might not pop up on a regular scholar bowl meet," said Cadet Maj. Emma Sanabia.
The AFJROTC Academic Bowl is more "group based," according to Longhorn.
"It's not so much individually based. We work as a team to figure out the answers, too," Longhorn said.
"I think it's a really cool competition to really see the level of mental competition between the different corps of JROTC branches, and to be able to just have that competition of intellect where you are able to represent your group is awesome, and I'm really glad that we are able to participate in it," OTHS Cadet Capt. Joseph Deagan said.
Longhorn said teachers and parents have been "very supportive in helping provide extra help with studying tips and providing rides up to school before and after school or on the weekends when we need to study together and do practice testing."
"Without the help of our OTHS and JROTC corps friends and family we wouldn't have gotten this far," Estrada said.
Sanabia said that while there are seven team members, only four will be participating in the competition.
"But we all study together and stay current on watching the news as a group, too," Sanabia said.
The hope is not only to be the best Air Force team, but the best of all the service branches. The Joint Service Academic Bowl will be held on Sunday, June 24. The winning team from the Air Force will compete against the winning teams from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps JROTC Academic Championships in a four-way competition.
"At the very end, you face off against each branch with their top team to see who can be the best of the four — one Air Force, one Army, one Navy, one Marine team," Komm said.
An awards ceremony will be held the evening of June 25.
"We are excited to do some sight-seeing after the competition and award ceremony before we head back home," Sanabia said.