Loudoun County High Schools NJROTC Orienteering team competes at the 2022 NJROTC National Orienteering Invitational Championship

On  March 12 and 13, 15 LCHS NJROTC cadets from the Orienteering team participated in the National Orienteering Invitational Championship in San Jose, California. Three teams competed: Varsity (Gabe Du Plessis, Luke Beaupre, Daniel Ellis, Alan Crouse, Rowan Mendenhall), Junior Varsity (Fred Clarey, Andrew Wilson, Fabrizio Flores, Michael Du Plessis, Johnnie Pfalmer), and Intermediate, which only consists of freshmen, (Jaden Gillespie, Tyler Jones, Liberty Landavere, Andrew Bruce, Octavian Ashford). 

Orienteering is a competitive sport, where participants must use a wide variety of skills such as land navigation and decision-making in order to win. Each orienteer uses a map and compass to navigate through an unknown course, trying to find checkpoints in the shortest time possible. Led by Captain Gabe Du Plessis and Co-captain Johnnie Pfalmer, the Orienteering team trained for many months to quickly read maps, plan and run the best routes, and improve overall physical fitness. All this training paid off at nationals. 

Du Plessis notes that the cadets that went to nationals, “were disciplined in going to meets and practices.”

Pfalmer helped with preparation, adding fitness practice “to ensure everyone would be physically ready.” According to Pfalmer, “The team put in the effort to be the best they could, mentally and physically, and they trusted what they were taught while they were competing. Of course there’s alway room for improvement, but I’m happy with where we were as a team.”

After two days of intense competition, the team waited for their results. 

“Waiting in the line was a bit aggravating because it took hours to calculate. But if I’m being completely honest I was really nervous waiting for the results. Based on my score I didn’t know if I was going to place,” Rowan Mendenhall, a freshman on the Varsity team, said.

In the end, the Intermediate team of all freshmen took fifth place, Junior Varsity came in third place, Varsity team second place, and second place overall out of 31 of the best teams in the nation.  Individual medalists included freshman Ashford , freshman Mendenhall, junior Du Plessis, freshman Wilson, and sophomore Flores . 

“I am very happy with how the team performed, they all put everything that we learnt into their races,” Du Plessis said. “They all ran fantastic races and were rewarded with their well earned medals and trophies.”

For next year, Du Plessis proposes improving on stamina “because our map skills are off the charts, and we need more girls to join the team.” His goals for next year are “to recruit as many people as possible, making the experience enjoyable, meaning not having boring practices! With the team we have we should win Area 5 and Nationals easily.”

Senior Naval Science Instructor and retired U.S. Navy Captain Bill Johns is pleased with the team’s performance. “Without question, this has been the best year for our orienteering team for several reasons,” Johns said. “ Not only did the team earn honors as the nation’s second ranked NJROTC orienteering team out of 31 high schools, but four of the ten cadets on Varsity and JV that made that happen were freshman or first-year orienteers.  I could not be more pleased and proud of this team for the way they responded to adversity all year long, to include injuries that prevented two of our most experienced runners from competing at nationals.”

Johns attributes the team’s ability to adapt and overcome to the student leadership, citing the orienteering team’s two captains:  Gabe Du Plessis and Johnnie Pfalmer.  For next year, Johns is looking forward to “The opportunity to have as much fun as we had this year!”