The Georgetown High School JROTC program is losing their leader but keeping their trophy.

The second annual Navy Club drill meet was held at Georgetown High School on Saturday to give cadets from Georgetown, Andrews and Carvers Bay the opportunity to demonstrate their academic, leadership and military skills in a county-wide competition. Led by Maj. Shawn Studley again this year, the Bulldog unit placed first in most categories, retaining the overall trophy while Andrews and Carvers Bay took home accolades of their own.

Maj. Studley, who is leaving Georgetown High for Catawba Ridge High School in Fort Mill, gave the welcome and thanked Deputy Superintendent Dr. Celeste Pringle for her support along with the Georgetown Navy Club, Georgetown VFW, and the Pawleys Island Moose Lodge for their sponsorship of the event. Lt. Junior Grade Cedric Geathers, a senior who plans to become a Marine, gave the prayer followed by the honor choir’s performance.

Rev. Jack Powers of the First Baptist Church spoke briefly, admonishing the standing students.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,” Powers said, paraphrasing the Apostle Paul. Powers then read the Competitor's Creed, established by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, allowing the attentive cadets to repeat the affirming lines aloud, closing with “Let the competition begin; let the Glory be God’s.”

After reminding attendees of the hot forecast and the importance of staying hydrated, Studley invited the competitors and guests out of the comfort of the gymnasium to the “drill pad” that had been converted from the student parking lot. There, dressed in full military uniform, squads of students called out orders and appropriate responses, marched in unison, presented colors and exhibited arms under the watchful eye of experienced soldiers who served as judges for the Military Appreciation Day activities.

Three of the judges, Elliot Lambert, Hunter Lee and Colton Bailey are GHS graduates and took time away from their USMC obligations in North Charleston and Camp Lejeune to serve at the school that gave them four years of JROTC training. Color guard judge Elliot Lambert commented, “It’s very different coming back after three years. The school looks great and I am excited to be a judge here.”

His cohort, Lance Cpl. Hunter Lee also spoke about his homecoming and the experience of evaluating those still learning the military procedures.

“It’s very exciting being on the opposite side because we did this for four years on (the cadets’) side and it’s just really exciting to come back,” Lee said.

School board member Sandra Johnson was one of the many spectators enjoying the shade of the tall trees near the drill pad.

“I have this dilemma,” Johnson said when asked who she was cheering for, “Andrews is my district, but my grandniece is competing today and she’s from Georgetown.” Her grandniece, Zanaya Best, a senior who's remained committed to the program all four years, was enjoying her last drill meet, despite the 90-degree heat.

Cadets Pep Jordan and Andrew Ackerman, who are also student athletes, used the time between events to sell their “Football Fundraiser Cards” for their team. “It’s been a hot week,” said Ackerman, reflecting on the daily drills during the school day and the evening football practices after school. Jordan, the team’s quarterback, noted, “One of the big factors for both is the (physical training).” Jordan spoke highly of their departing instructor, Maj Studley. “We are sad that he’s leaving and we don’t want him to go.”

After “chow” in the school cafeteria, students changed for the fitness events, with all three schools winning medals on the football field for the tug-of-war and the relay races.

Senior Cedric Geathers took time in the midst of the action to reflect on the overall program.

“My four years in high school flew by; I wish it didn’t have to end because I’m gonna’ miss the fun and the wonderful people I met. I’m really gonna’ miss JROTC because that’s where I became a better person and learned a lot, but there are always new challenges in life and I’m willing to accept them," he said.

In the gymnasium, Navy Club President John Cox presented the various awards, enlisting former NJROTC instructors Charles Clark and Dean Brown to assist.

Next year’s 2020 drill meet will be held at Carvers Bay High School.