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Ripon, MUSD JROTC teams at EU Saturday
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The Ripon JROTC drill team has its sights set on hosting a regional championship in March and a return trip to the All Army Nationals.

First things first, though.

One of the state’s premier JROTC programs will need to navigate the local circuit, which continues Saturday with the East Union Drill Competition.

The event will have a strong local draw. Four of the five Manteca Unified School Districts are scheduled to compete, including Lathrop, Manteca and Weston Ranch.

The competition begins at 9 a.m. in East Union’s Dalben Center.

Ripon, with its decorated past and strong national reputation, is the favorite on paper. However, the Indians’ Blake Morrow, a member of the color guard, says a trophy isn’t guaranteed.

“They’ll offer some really good competition,” he said.

Ripon will be tough to beat in a competition that takes the cumulative score in color guard and armed and unarmed drills to determine the winner.

The Indians are motivated by last year’s brush with a national championship in Louisville, Kentucky. Morrow said Ripon finished eighth in color guard among 25 schools, but just middle of the pack in drills.

“We really want to go back and do better. That’s been our motivation,” he said. “In color guard, we’re shooting for a top-5. I think we can do that.”

Named a “Unit with Distinction” last March for scoring in the top 2 percent of all JROTC programs in the nation, Ripon has lived up to its reputation in 2013.

The Indians rolled to victories at the Rio Linda and Mount Diablo (Concord) invitationals in January. The Indians also placed second overall at a similar drill event at Edison High in Stockton.

“Those were just warm-ups,” said retired Army Col. Patrick Dunn, one of Ripon’s two advisors. The other is retired Sgt. Butch Perry. “The one that will count is in March.”

As if the stakes weren’t high enough, Ripon has the added pressure of hosting the regional competition, too.

The Area 5 Drill Championships and Sport Invitational are scheduled for Sunday, March 3. It’s the second straight year Ripon has hosted the regional.

The regional is used as a qualifier for the All Army Nationals on June 6.

Last year, Ripon emerged from its regional and then took first place overall at the Brigade, which sends the top-three schools on the West Coast to nationals.

For more information on the Ripon JROTC program, visit