Army ROTC students from across the country went back to basics Saturday at the 19th annual Kansas Army ROTC Ranger Buddy Competition.
This year’s theme for the military challenge, held at Sesquicentennial Park, was based on the original rules developed by Maj. Robert Rogers, a military leader during the 1700s.
“It’s a good experience for cadets to show skills required of the military and to work for something,” senior Matt Visser said.
Thirty-nine universities from 14 states make up the 183 teams of two Army ROTC students who competed to be named the Ranger Buddy champions.
The competition is divided into three divisions: men, women and co-ed. It began with a 15K buddy team ruck march qualifier to determine who would proceed with the rest of the competition, and the 45 teams who finished last were disqualified.
After the ruck march, the cadets and their partners had to complete six lanes, which are mini obstacle courses with concentration on specific military skills, as quickly as possible. The six lanes — defense, water, attack, movement, urban and rope — contained varying obstacles.
“Each lane has a different focus that challenges them physically and mentally,” Col. Storm Reynolds said.
The teams completed tasks ranging from climbing ropes and carrying teammates to mapping areas and assembling rifles.
“Each piece in the military works together to get the mission accomplished,” Visser said. “Each branch has a component that contributes.”
After finishing the lanes, the teams then finished the competition with the buddy run, a 2.5-mile timed run. All of the times from the eight events are added up, and the winners of each category are the teams with the shortest times.
Junior Stuart McConnell won the men’s division in 2011 and 2012. This year he competed with a different partner, his younger brother freshman Hugh McConnell. For Hugh McConnell, there was an advantage in competing with a two-time winner, but Stuart McConnell said the difference between a freshman competitor and a junior competitor is apparent in the challenges.
“Experience is huge,” Stuart said.
Motivated to compete together and win, they began training for the competition in November. The two only had one chance to win because even though Stuart doesn’t graduate for another year, Hugh will attend West Point in the fall, making this the only year the two had to compete as a team.
“There’s always pressure to win, but that’s why I’m here, to complete the tasks and win,” Hugh said.
Even with his new and younger partner, Stuart continued his undefeated reign. The McConnells placed first in the men’s division of the competition. KU’s Nathan Edgar and York Olszewski placed third in the men’s division, and Sarah Meyer and Madeline Wilcox placed third in the women’s division.
Not all KU Army ROTC cadets got to participate in the competition. The students who wanted to compete went to physical training from 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. every Monday through Friday starting in January, as well as two evenings of technical practice each week.
For the students who didn’t compete, the competition was still a way to learn.
The students, along with local volunteers, helped prepare for the event and run each lane. Students also had to recruit various local businesses and organizations to sponsor the event, including the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which allowed the university to host the competition at Sesquicentennial Park.
“It’s a training experience for all of us,” Visser said.