Punahou JROTC tackles national competition in Va.

| June 28, 2013 | 0 Comments
Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps academic team members (from left) Nick Grocki, Brandon Takao, Wyatt Smith and Katherine Seth, from Punahou School in Honolulu, prepare to compete at the JROTC Leadership Bowl and Academic championship at George Mason University, Saturday.

Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps academic team members (from left) Nick Grocki, Brandon Takao, Wyatt Smith and Katherine Seth, from Punahou School in Honolulu, prepare to compete at the JROTC Leadership Bowl and Academic championship at George Mason University, Saturday.

Story and photos by
Vickey MouzÉ
U.S. Army Cadet Command Public Affairs

FAIRFAX, Va. — A team of Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets from Oahu brought a bit of Hawaiian aloha to the mainland when it competed in a yearly national JROTC championship, here, June 21-23.

JROTC Cadets Nick Grocki, Katherine Seth, Wyatt Smith and Brandon Takao represented Punahou School of Honolulu in the academic portion at the 2013 National JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl (JLAB) championships hosted by College Options.

The Punahou academic team was just one of two JROTC teams from the state of Hawaii that qualified to compete in JLAB. (Waimea High School from Kauai sent a Leadership Team to the competition).

Originally up against 24 teams representing U.S. Army Cadet Command’s Army JROTC brigades, Punahou’s team began its ascent to the championship back at the start of the school year. Pushing its way through a progressive process consisting of online quizzes and other qualifying events, Punahou was among three first-place teams from 8th Brigade.

Army JROTC Cadet Nick Grocki, a member of the Punahou team, thinks about the answer to a question during the Army JROTC Leadership Bowl and Academic Championship, Saturday.

Army JROTC Cadet Nick Grocki, a member of the Punahou team, thinks about the answer to a question during the Army JROTC Leadership Bowl and Academic Championship, Saturday.

Brandon Takao, team captain, had been to JLAB about five years ago when he was in fifth grade. He had traveled with his dad, retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Takao, Punahou’s senior Army instructor when he’d brought teams to JLAB.

“I just came here as a spectator, and I was definitely intrigued by what I saw,” Brandon Takao said. “So, I sort of knew what to expect and used that to help prepare our team.”

Brandon Takao had helped prepare his teammates by drilling with ACT and SAT practice questions that covered math, science, literature and history, the same categories at the academic competition.

“I’ve always had a goal of competing here,” Brandon Takao continued. “I enjoy doing this type of activity, and it’s definitely nice to have seen some of this before. The competition is still pretty much the same.”

During the qualifying rounds, Punahou and McNair cadets sat in a semicircle in a classroom, facing that session’s moderator.

The long extra hours of practice had paid off; Punahou worked its way through the qualifying brackets. June 23, the team faced off against McNair Academic High School from Jersey City, N.J., a yearly rival and consistently one of the top JROTC academic teams in the nation.

Punahou’s cadets had watched McNair’s team June 22-23 by observing their friendly rivals during qualifying rounds. After each session, Punahou’s cadets would gather and discuss their rival’s performance to prepare their strategy. They felt it was inevitable that they would face off with McNair’s team.

And just as they predicted, Punahou did go up against McNair in the academic quarterfinals.

The atmosphere grew tense as Punahou’s cadets tried to hit the buzzer first to answer a question. In the end, McNair beat out Punahou to go on to the semifinals.

With the semifinals over, cadets from both schools met out in the hallway, shook hands and offered congratulations.

But before parting ways, Punahou’s cadets showed the aloha spirit by teaching their one-time rivals how to “throw da shaka.”

Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from Punahou School in Honolulu (left) meet with Army JROTC cadets from McNair Academic High School in Jersey City, N.J.,  after facing each other in the semifinals of the academic rounds at Army JROTC Leadership Bowl and Academic Championship at George Mason University, Saturday.

Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from Punahou School in Honolulu (left) meet with Army JROTC cadets from McNair Academic High School in Jersey City, N.J., after facing each other in the semifinals of the academic rounds at Army JROTC Leadership Bowl and Academic Championship at George Mason University, Saturday.

(Editor’s note: The Punahou academic team finished fourth among 24 JROTC academic teams, losing the last question to McNair Academic High School in the Army semifinals.)

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