Competing against Orienteering teams from all corners of the country, Hillgrove High School students recently emerged as national champions.
The annual competition brings the very best Navy JROTC orienteers from nearly 600 NJROTC units together to test their navigation skills in locating controls (checkpoints) in unfamiliar and rough terrain with only the aid of a map and a compass.
Hillgrove’s NJROTC cadets tested their skills and proved victorious against almost 30 other Orienteering teams in the Vasquez Rocks Natural Area in Agua Dulce, California near Los Angeles. Not only did the Hillgrove students claim the title of National Orienteering Champions, they nearly swept all team categories. The varsity team easily captured first, junior varsity placed second, and the freshmen team finished first.
“I am so proud of this team and our entire unit—cadets, parents, and community included—for their commitment to each other and the goals we set out to attain,” said LCDR Ron Hojnowski, Hillgrove Senior Naval Science Instructor. “It is through this commitment to excellence and to each other that a relatively small group of cadets can achieve such great things.”
Overall, Hillgrove captured a total of 480 of a possible 500 points, well ahead of the second-place total of 370. Individually, 11 of Hillgrove’s 14 competitors received medals, all placing in the top five for the two-day competition, in their respective categories.
Outstanding individual performances were turned in by Jacob Gallichio, who is the male Varsity champion, and Mason Blum, who finished second. Jennifer Harnage is the female Varsity champion for the second consecutive year, with Mary Smith finishing second. In the female JV category, Nadia Daraseng captured the title, with Elena Mortensen finishing second and Eslen Trumble fifth. Peyton Valencia was fifth in the male JV category and in the 9th-grade division, Keyana Fields won the girls competition, and Luke Ballentine and Lucas Schultz finished third and fifth, respectively.
“This team has worked very hard this year and has put in a ton of work, which is evident in our successes this year. We’ve let the past years propel us forward and light a fire under us to work harder and never stop. This accomplishment means a lot to the entire team since this is the first time in our young unit’s life that we have won a national championship,” said Orienteering Team Captain, Cadet LTJG Jennifer Harnage.
This was Hillgrove’s fourth consecutive appearance at the national competition, and they were one of only five schools representing Georgia and Northeast Florida. Before being named national champions this year, the Hillgrove cadets finished each of the prior three years as one of top three teams in the nation.
“Our school motto is ‘Deliberately Successful!’ It is so rewarding to have watched the deliberate actions of each of these cadets over the course of the last few years and to see it finally paying off for them with this level of success,” praised LCDR Hojnowski.