Drill teams from 85 Georgia high schools met Saturday for the Georgia State Drill Meet, many competing for the last time in their high school careers.
Evans High School senior Chelsec Crews, who joined in hugs and tears with fellow members of the female drill team after competing, said the meet was the culmination of four years of dedication to the Army Junior ROTC.
"It just means so much now that we get to come to the state competition and show what we have," she said.
For the past five years, the male drill team at Evans has been champions. The female drill team has been champions for the past two years.
Evans continued that tradition Saturday when the male drill team placed first in armed exhibition and the females finished first in both armed exhibition and regulation.
As many as 1,500 cadets from around Georgia took part in the competition at Fort Gordon, hosted by the 15th Regimental Signal Brigade. Categories ranged from one-cadet exhibitions to 13-cadet platoon exhibitions.
"It's probably the most competitive event all year," said Command Sgt. Maj. Russell Beard, senior Army instructor at Worth County High School, who helped with scoring at Saturday's event. "The kids spend probably half the year getting ready."
The Evans drill team practices from 6 to 7 a.m. and then again from 3 to 4 p.m. Practices for the state meet began in August.
Cliff Bozeman, Evans' battalion commander who plans on trying out for the Blue Ridge Rifles at North Georgia College & State University in the fall, said he fell in love with Junior ROTC his freshman year.
He placed first in individual exhibition Saturday.
"Going through middle school I never really had anything," he said. "I wasn't a football player or on yearbook staff or anything. I just wanted something I could be a part of."