RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL)— Junior ROTC cadets from Russell County High School are set to go to Washington D.C. for a national competition in June.

They’re the only area school competing in this year’s JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl for the second year in a row.

The Russell County High School JROTC Leadership Team is one of only 40 teams to compete in the academic bowl out of a global pool of 1,371 teams.

The team is made up of four cadets: Lacey Campbell, Madison Snodgrass, Kyra Brinkerhoff, and Gracie Griffiths.

During preliminary rounds online, the cadets were tested on current events, leadership values, leadership skills, and financial literacy. Other than these skills, the team says this championship is a learning experience in and of itself.

“This teaches a lot of teamwork, and a lot of independent work, not only to rely on your teammates but also have your teammates rely on you,” Snodgrass says. “Also, in our trip to D.C. it taught a lot of personal skills, it was my first time in an airport… it was a learning experience, and you get to see all these monuments, learn new things, try new things.”

“A lot of us have lifelong friendships from this, from people we have met and people that we are going to meet,” Griffiths says.

Campbell, Snodgrass, and Griffiths were at last year’s national competition, they share how that experience helped them prepare for this year.

“Last year, we were academic, but a lot of the stuff wasn’t what we were training for, or we were testing ourselves for. And I feel like this year we’ll have a better grasp on what we are actually doing and what actually needs our focus and attention. Whereas last year we went in there blind,” Snodgrass said.

Campbell agreed with Snodgrass, “I feel like because we did go last year. Our confidence has built up so much more, we’re ready for it,” she added.

Griffiths also adds the team has additional preparational materials this year compared to last.

“We also have a lot of study material that we didn’t have that actually correlates to what we are going for this time, so I think that will help us as well,” she says.

New cadet to nationals, Brinkerhoff, says the team shares their focus on bringing the title back. “We have a goal, and that’s the main focus.”

The four cadets share community support also boosts their morale while preparing for the championship.

“American Legion has been has been a huge part in helping us get to where we are now from last year. They have really supported us, and let us know they are there behind us, supporting us all the way through,” Griffiths says.

“The school also supported us, I know last year we got a lot of recognition through Facebook, a lot of families were reposting and sharing about it,” Campbell says.

Snodgrass says Muscogee County hosted an award ceremony for the cadets as well.

Brinkerhoff largely thanked Russell County High School’s JROTC instructor, Darrin Jones, Command Sergeant Major in preparing her for her first upcoming year at nationals.

“Our directors of the teamSergeant Major, ColonelI don’t think I would have taken it as seriously, quite frankly, if it wasn’t for them pushing us because it was just, ‘oh, we’re just a little school in Alabama what are we going to do?’ but they were constantly pushing us, and encouraging us, and seeing potential that I think not only helped us academically, but confidence-wise,” she says.

Jones however says the team’s success comes down to the dedication shown by the four cadets on the team and their desire to bring the title back to east Alabama.

“This is a repeat, they went last year. That was the building block for us to build on this year. So, the kids really put forward a ton of extra effort to make sure that we represent our area this year, and that’s what we’re wanting to do. So, we plan on coming back with the title,” he explains.

The 2022 U.S. Army JROTC Leadership Bowl Championship will be held on the campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. from June 19-23, 2022.