BYU Army ROTC Lives Up to Legacy of Past BYU ROTC Sandhurst Teams
PROVO, Utah – Jul 02, 2021 – A group of BYU Army ROTC students finished tenth out of forty-four teams in the April 2021 Sandhurst Challenge at West Point, New York. Competing against leading ROTC programs from around the country, BYU Army ROTC cadets pushed past their limits and used their military skills to complete an extreme competition, testing both their physical and mental capacities.
After finishing in the top ten at the 2019 Ranger Challenge, a regional competition, the BYU Army ROTC cadets qualified for the 2021 Sandhurst Challenge and competed against the United States Military Academy, US Air Force Academy, and other university ROTC teams. “BYU averages Sandhurst attendance about every three to five years. Our program has a rich tradition of doing well in the local competitions, and that's how we end up going to Sandhurst as often as we do,” says Lieutenant Colonel Seth Miller, department chair and professor of military science at the BYU Marriott School of Business.
Because of their dedicated preparation for the challenge, the cadets continued BYU’s legacy of performing well at Sandhurst. Cadets such as Austin Cloninger, a senior studying Middle Eastern Studies/Arabic from Morgan, Utah, along with the help of BYU Army ROTC leaders and mentors, sacrificed time and effort in order to prepare for the extreme physical challenges. “Our team has been training all year long,” says Cloninger. “During the summer, we start strength and conditioning workouts, and in September we hold a selection process where we evaluate the cadets’ physical fitness, emotional grit and discipline, and competency with military skills.”
Cloninger was tasked with overseeing the training and spent many nights creating workouts and plans for the challenge. Additionally, Cloninger directed the team during the Sandhurst Challenge and helped team members succeed in the events. “I was responsible for our team’s entry, knowing where the cadets needed to be and when, and being in the right uniforms. I handled leadership and support during the competition,” says Cloninger.
The BYU Army ROTC team experienced numerous obstacles during the competition, but the team overcame them with outstanding endurance. Over two days, the students covered a distance of thirty to forty miles over the course of the competition, stopping to complete tests of functional fitness or military skills, such as emergency first aid. “All of the events tested not only physical endurance but mental endurance as well,” says Cloninger. The team was scored based on its performance in each of the events.
Miller cheered on the cadets during the challenge and witnessed a powerful moment of grit. “In one of the tests, the cadets were required to paddle around this small lake near West Point in a raft in freezing weather,” says Miller. “While maneuvering the raft, two of our cadets fell in the water, with the water level above their heads, which was not a situation anticipated in their training. Even though the New York morning was cold, the cadets left the raft with wet socks and boots and continued with the competition, hiking up the biggest hill in West Point.”
Cloninger recalls the last stretch of the challenge being particularly memorable because of the way his team felt after enduring to the last second. “The last stretch was the most difficult of the race, but at the end, we as a team stood together at the finish line and felt all the difficulties everyone went through. Until the end, we took care of each other. We all had this intense feeling of unity,” says Cloninger.
The 2021 Sandhurst Challenge stood out as an unforgettable test of endurance and skill for participating BYU Army ROTC cadets. To Miller, Sandhurst creates more depth and resilience in the cadets who compete. “In the challenge, our cadets discovered they could go a lot further than they previously thought. Everyone who went to Sandhurst this year came back stronger than before,” says Miller.
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Emily Atwood