Hayes hosts 20th annual AFJROTC meet


Earlier this month, the Hayes High School AFJROTC hosted its 20th annual Drill Meet and took home second place in the Color Guard competition.

Major Matthew O’Brien, the program’s instructor, said the meet is traditionally one of the first meets in the AFJROTC competition season, and 14 schools came to Hayes on Feb. 10 to participate in the competition, including a school from Michigan and one from Pennsylvania.

“It’s good to see everybody show up, have a good day, compete, safely have fun, and show off all their hard work,” O’Brien said.

This is the fourth competition at Hayes that O’Brien has helped organize since he took over the program in 2020, and he said Tuesday he enjoys seeing the cadets compete.

“For me, (I enjoy) just being able to conduct an event where all the schools can compete and have a good day and be able to have an outlet to show off all their hard work,” O’Brien said. “(Some schools) practice over the summer and earlier in the school year. This drill competition gives them that opportunity to show all their hard work and put it all out on the drill floor and compete against some of the most challenging and competitive schools in the nation.”

O’Brien said he believes at least two schools that competed in the meet will make it to Air Force Nationals this spring.

He praised the work of the boosters, parents, and cadets who volunteered their time to organize and run the event.

“(All the planning from boosters) came together in one great event,” O’Brien said. “They did a great job. Because we have the boosters, and we have the parental involvement, volunteers, and the cadets who are willing to come in and help, it makes it all come together.”

O’Brien said the pandemic and changes in leadership over a short period has allowed him to “hit the reset button” on the program.

“We were able to look at things with a fresh set of eyes,” O’Brien said, adding he wanted to give cadets more leadership roles and opportunities. “Cadets really took to it. They love to have leadership opportunities and responsibility. It gives them opportunity to flourish in a structured environment where they hone their management, supervision and leadership skills.”

O’Brien said Hayes High School’s team of 20 cadets competed in as many drill events as possible and earned second place in the Color Guard competition. He added Hayes has a “very young team,” which he believes is a positive because it means the team will continue to grow together and consistently over the next few years.

“We’re going to have some sustained members and leaders coming down the road,” O’Brien said. “We show a lot of promise.”

O’Brien said the drill team now faces a gauntlet of three-straight weekend competitions.

“We’re staying in the fight and competitive, it’s just a matter of shaking off a little bit of the nerves,” he said. “I know they’ll work their way through that.”

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903.

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