by Emily Meyer, Ohio State Athletics Communications
Although the athletic field may be most often where Buckeyes are recognized, The Ohio State University is represented far beyond the sporting arena with just as much pride. Considered the varsity sport of the Army ROTC, the Ranger Challenge is an 18-hour long competition that tests the endurance, skill and mentality of young cadets.
Each year, Ohio State’s Army ROTC sends two teams, Scarlet and Gray, to the competition in Fort Knox, Ky. And in the last five years, team Scarlet has placed in the competition’s Top 3 four times, winning it twice in 2005 and ’06. This November, Team Scarlet barely missed winning the challenge for a third-consecutive year, placing second while Team Gray finished in fourth.
Much like the head coaches of Ohio State’s varsity sports, retired First Sergeant Daniel Whitney looks for the cadets with outstanding athletic ability and the mentality to last through 18 grueling hours of work to field his team.
“The first thing we look for is physical fitness,” Whitney, the head coach of Team Scarlet, said. “That’s probably the most important component because with fitness comes endurance and the competition itself lasts 18 hours.”
Starting in mid-September, the 18 selected cadets begin training together. By week four, the teams are separated into two groups based on the score from their physical fitness (PT) tests. To pass the PT test a cadet must complete more than 78 sit ups, 71 push-ups and run two miles in under 13 minutes.
In the Ranger Challenge, the team of nine cadets competes in eight events, starting with the PT test. Then the teams rotate between the infantry rifle platoon and squad field manual, a one-rope bridge (teams cross a 40-foot water obstacle using a single rope), grenade throw, marksmanship, weapons disassembly and assembly, orienteering and a 10 kilometer ruck march.
Team Scarlet won two events, the weapons assembly and ruck march while Team Gray set a regional record as they won the one rope bridge event en route to Ohio State claiming two of the Top 4 places.
In all, 29 teams from the Army ROTC units in Ohio and Kentucky compete in the Ranger Challenge a challenge for toughest cadets, while also balancing school, practice and work.
“The average student on our team is taking 18-21 credit hours and doing Ranger Challenge adds another 12 hours to their week,” Whitney said. “Some of them work part-time on top of that so when you look at the extra time they put on to be a part of the Ranger Challenge it rivals what is expected of a varsity student-athlete. I’m proud to say that we have a combined team grade point average of 3.38 between both teams.”
Representing Ohio State, the OSU Army ROTC teams face the same rivalry as the university’s varsity teams.
“Just coming in with the Ohio State school name and being a Buckeye, everyone already has their eyes on us,” Whitney said.