Members of the CCHS Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) left the humid summer weather of South Florida for the dry heat of Arizona last week to compete at the national level.
“It was a great honor to [be] among the first NJROTC Brain Brawl that was sent to nationals,” senior Cullen Hall said. “The trip was very rewarding with the experience of the competition and the pleasure to see some of our nation’s beautiful landscape.”
“This was the first time we’ve gone to nationals, so it was exciting.”
This marks the first time the CCHS NJROTC has made it to the national level, after the program’s academic Brain Brawl prevailed at a state competition against other schools in February at Gaither High School, Tampa. Brain Brawl is a jeopardy-style competition where four teams compete to get the most Navy Sciences-related questions correct by buzzing in as quickly as possible. While the team fell out in the final rounds, the team members found the experience worthwhile.
“In the past, we’ve only made it to the state level,” senior Natalie Aguirre said. “This was the first time we’ve gone to nationals, so it was exciting.”
On Friday morning, five members of the larger Brain Brawl team – Aguirre, Cullen, John Lystad, Sarah Seng and Paige Manta – boarded a flight to Arizona along with students from Boca Raton High School and Gaither High School. They were accompanied by Assistant Principal Carla Hozebin and Petty Officer Sloane. The team spent time at the Heard Museum after landing, a non-profit dedicated to preserving American Indian art.
The national competition itself was an invitational hosted at Moon Valley High School in Phoenix on Saturday. The NJROTC members woke up at 6:30 a.m. in order to prepare for the day, and spent most of Saturday competing in the Brain Brawl sector against other teams. They made it to the sixth round of the competition before being sent to the losers’ bracket and placing second.
“The only way to get out [of the losers’ bracket] is to come out first, which is how we made it here at states,” Aguirre said. “But we got second, so they sent us home.”
After the competition, the NJROTC Brain Brawl team enjoyed the sights and attractions available to them in Phoenix and in nearby towns. Doing things such as seeing the Grand Canyon, going on a four-mile hike, visiting an airplane museum and even participating in an escape room, the overall experience proved valuable for all those who went and acted as a stepping stone for the future of the CCHS NJROTC Brain Brawl team.
“It was a lot of fun and the kids had a great time while also learning a lot about what it takes to win the competition,” NJROTC Petty Officer Sloan said.
Photo courtesy of John Lystad