|On Sunday, March 24, the Clear Falls Mighty Knights JROTC running team completed the Texas Independence Relay in 27 hours and 50 minutes. The Knights began the race the previous morning at 9:22 a.m. and completed the race at 1:12 on Sunday afternoon.
The Texas Independence Relay is composed of 40 relay legs of various lengths, totaling 200 miles. The course starts in Gonzales, where the spark of the Texas Revolution took place, and it finishes at the San Jacinto Monument, where Texas Independence was won! To tackle this formidable task a team runs through the cities of Gonzales, Shiner, Moulton, Flatonia, Schulenburg, Weimar, Borden, Columbus, Altair, Eagle Lake, Wallis, Orchard, Simonton, and Fulshear. Then make their way through the paramount city of Houston, experiencing it in a way few never have before!
The race route is steeped with momentous history which amounts to a great time that everyone who successfully completes the race fondly remembers for years to come. The theme for the race is the same as the Texans who fought in that initial battle for independence: "Come and take it!"
The race boasts almost 150 teams, which is about 1,500 runners, most of which are composed of avid, lifelong runners. The JROTC Knights are the only team compiled mostly of high school students. The team is composed of seniors Hannah Hughes and Matt Kinsey; juniors Sabrina Marmol, Austin Williams, Micah Castillo and Kristy Spicer; and sophomores Joe Spicer, Austin Anderson, Christian Fling and Connor Thompson. Teachers Stephan Kohan and JROTC Instructor James Courtney are the only adults on the team.
"I'm often asked, ‘why do you put yourself through this?’” said Courtney about why he chooses to take on this challenging task each year. “Years ago when I started doing this I couldn't really answer that question myself.
“Since I've been asked it so often, and even asked it to myself occasionally, I believe I have come to realize I do it for the opportunity to help these young people to learn life lessons.”
Lessons like what it takes to be committed to completing something you're really not sure you can do, lessons like what it takes as an individual to be part of a team and lessons like how fitness can improve your quality of life.
Every year, at all most every leg of the race, Courtney hears others around his team having conversations such as "Who are those kids?" and "That group sure is energetic!" He is often approached and asked about the group and when he explain they are a high school JROTC group the response is always the same, everyone is astounded and very enthused to see young people who would put the time and effort into completing something like this.
Today, people not in the educational arena often only hear the negative side of the youth of America, through this event thousands of them get a chance to see that if there are students, like the ones of the Clear Falls Mighty Knights JROTC program out there, our country's future is not as bleak as they may think.
Sunday, as I departed, worn and weary, with another successful 200 miles under my belt, I watched them huddle together talking about the logistics of setting up next year's race and how they can make it even better. I have to admit, I too am always inspired by their exuberance and enthusiasm.