Bringing Home the Hardware

Blood, sweat, and tears. That is what the fitness team puts into their sport. Being on the physical fitness team means pushing past the limits for the sheer sake of doing it.

Our Marine Corps JROTC won the 2017 National Physical Fitness competition in San Diego, California last May. This sport takes an immense amount of dedication and perseverance. Those that went to the competition were Class of 2017’s Robert Donahue and Aron Phillips, along with seniors Grant Nolen, Ty Palmer, and Andrew Rogers, and junior Jacob Roset.

Having suffered a serious injury shortly before the competition, Palmer knows about perseverance better than most. “I was standing in line on a ski lift on my last day of spring break and an out of control skier came down,” he said. “He ran me over, almost completely severing my middle finger, and it cut off all nerve connection in my finger, so I have no feeling in my finger anymore.”

Having a major injury such as this is detrimental to an athlete, especially three months before a competition, as was Palmer’s case. He said, “All the doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to compete. I wouldn’t be able to do push-ups, pull-ups, or things like that.”

This didn’t stop Palmer. His ambition was too strong to be stifled. He said, “I actually had to do modified push-ups until the week before nationals where I curled my knuckles to do them, and since I couldn’t do pull ups with my hand, I bought a hook. I wrapped the hook around my wrist and dip pull ups with it. I was determined to not lose my spot in nationals in any way possible.

“I had to work really hard the last two months to get up to where I was before I had my surgery because I was out for almost a month after it. I had to have nerve reconnection surgery where they cut my finger back open where they’d stitched it together so they could reconnect my nerves to try and give me feeling back, which I still don’t completely have.”

What gives these athletes the tenacity to go through what they do to achieve their goals? The sheer amount of time and effort they put in is enough to make one’s head spin just thinking about it.

Senior Andrew Rogers, who ranked eleventh nationally, has his own reasons behind being a part of the team. Rogers said, “I’ve always been into working out and making myself better at what I do. I started with football freshman year. I then heard about the physical fitness team and I joined that. I enjoyed fitness a lot, and it really helped me instill confidence in myself and develop myself to a point where I was able to go and do things during football that were physically challenging.

“As the year progressed I began to enjoy football less and less, so I eventually wanted to focus on the fitness team because I continued to enjoy that, and I even enjoyed it more than at the beginning of the year. As you progress through the fitness team, get better, and become a part of the top, it becomes more unifying. You become very close with the guys. We have to work out a lot, so we spend a lot of time with each other and we get to know each other very well. It’s very close-knit and I really enjoy that.”

Even with these that push themselves to win, someone has to stand at the head of the team and direct where they push towards. That would be Sgt. Major Scott Jernigan. “There is a lot of work that goes into it,” Sgt. Mag. Jernigan said. “It’s not just the work they put in at school, in the morning and during lunch, but the students also work out on their own to improve raw strength and speed. They put in a lot of effort. I enjoy coaching them. The hardest challenge is getting them to believe that if they put in the work, they’ll see results. I enjoy getting them to believe in themselves. It’s not me who does it all, though. They are the ones who put in all the work.”

In who does what, the opinions differ. Although Sgt. Major  Jernigan says it’s the boys, they have a different view. Palmer said, “None of us could do what we do without Sgt. Major. He is a harder worker than any of us are. He is at school in the morning before any of us, he makes the workouts, he takes the time out of his day, and he’s always counting the numbers of what we can do and how we can improve.”

Palmer isn’t the only one who shares this opinion. Rogers said, “Sgt. Major isn’t just a coach. He is a teacher and a mentor. He is one of the most dedicated people in this school. He is here every morning way before the sun even comes up. He is always here and always doing something. He’s always been the best teacher that I think this school has, and he has made the ROTC program, the drill team, and the fitness team what it is today, which is on a national level. He is amazing, just truly amazing.”

One thing can be said about the fitness team for sure: their work ethic is one to envy. Sgt. Maj. Jernigan said, “There is a big joke. All the new coaches who made it to nationals always come out and say, ‘Man, Sgt. Major what are you doing?’ I say, ‘You haven’t heard? It’s a new workout and exercise program,’ and they are wanting to write it down because they want to copy what we are doing. I say, ‘You haven’t heard of it? It’s new. It’s called W. O. R. K.’ And as they write it down they figure out it is work. It’s work. It’s just plain hard work.”

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