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Ranger Challenge team to compete at Sandhurst April 16-17

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UNG's Ranger Challenge team finished in the top four overall and won the ROTC title in its past two trips to the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition. It looks to add to that track record of success April 16-17 in the competition at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The University of North Georgia's (UNG) Ranger Challenge team has built quite the reputation after consecutive ROTC titles and top-four finishes at the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition in 2018 and 2019. The team seemed on track to continue that streak when it swept the top two spots at the October 2019 Spartan Ranger Challenge to earn two spots at Sandhurst 2020.

Then COVID-19 canceled Sandhurst 2020.

That means Sandhurst 2021, set for April 16-17 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, will mark UNG's first chance in nearly a year and a half to excel on a major stage. UNG will compete against 25 U.S. Military Academy teams, 15 other ROTC programs and three U.S. service academies.

"I'm very eager to go back," said junior Hayley Farmer, a Griffin, Georgia, native pursuing a degree in criminal justice. "I've been itching to compete."

Of UNG's 11-member team, Farmer is the lone cadet who has competed at Sandhurst. She was a freshman on the team that placed third overall and earned the ROTC championship in April 2019.

Maj. Joshua Larson, UNG's active-duty Ranger Challenge adviser, said the Ranger Challenge team has completed four weapons ranges, made a trip to Fort Benning for various trainings, and conducted its own mini-Sandhurst set of activities over three days to prepare for the competition.

"We tried to expose them to the level of stress they will be subjected to at Sandhurst," Larson said.

Ranger Challenge is the varsity sport of Army ROTC, and teams compete against other colleges in events such as patrol, marksmanship, weapons assembly, one-rope bridge, grenade assault course, Army Combat Fitness Test, land navigation, and road march.

Noah Umezaki, a junior from Saitama, Japan, pursuing a degree in marketing, said team members are putting in extra work on their own in addition to team practices. He and his teammates all want to maintain the high standards previous UNG Ranger Challenge teams have set.                                                      

"We're trying to continue that legacy," Umezaki said.

Ian Bryan, a junior from Greenville, Georgia, pursuing a degree in management, said their Ranger Challenge coaches, Larson and retired Maj. Donovan Duke, have built a competitive culture that breeds success.

"There's never a complacent moment," Bryan said. "We're always trying to do more."

Bryan said the military science staff and the whole university have provided extensive support for UNG's Ranger Challenge team.

"They have our back and they are looking for our success," Bryan said. "We feel like we are representing the school and our program. We want to show them how we do things at UNG on a day-to-day basis."

Due to COVID-19, the competition will be closed to visitors, and no international teams will be competing.

It has been two years since Farmer has taken part in Sandhurst, but the moment has almost arrived again.

"I'm looking forward to seeing all the teams there and the high energy that everyone brings," Farmer said. "Everybody there is very skilled. And I’m really eager to see where we stand in comparison to other programs."

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