Southold NJROTC team invited to national orienteering competition

Southold NJROTC’s orienteering team of nearly 50 cadets, who come from Greenport, Southold and Mattituck high schools has been invited to compete at the NJROTC National Orienteering meet in North Carolina March 16-18.

Retired U.S. Navy Captain Tim McAllister started the orienteering team and currently leads it with his partners Master Sergeant Juan Ibanez and Major William Grigonis, who both served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The team is currently looking to raise $12,000 to attend and cover entry and travel fees. There is a GoFundMe campaign that has currently raised more than $4,000 so far.

Mr. McAllister describes orienteering as “a hybrid between cross country and on-the-spot navigation.”

“The way it works, competitors show up, they don’t know what the course is going to look like,” he said. “They’re given a series of checkpoints in a park or in a terrain that’s usually unfamiliar to them … they have to go individually and go from checkpoint to checkpoint as fast as they can. Whoever gets back first hitting all the checkpoints basically is the winner.” Competitors are only allowed to use a compass and the map and “control descriptions” provided by the organizer, which are used to identify course landmarks and locate appropriate checkpoints. Courses can take anywhere from 30 to 80 minutes to compete, depending on the size and terrain. 

When it comes to training his team on the North Fork, Mr. McAllister said he “used available images to create my own maps of the school grounds.”

Southold NJROTC has participated in orienteering training before but has never had a formal team or competed in official events. The unit has been to nationals for drill meets and other academic competitions, such as the Jeopardy-style Brain Brawl, but qualifying for nationals in orienteering is a “huge” achievement, Mr. McAllister said.

Only the top three teams from each of the NJROTC’s 23 nationwide geographic areas are invited to compete, and Southold was a top-three qualifier among 64 squads in its area, he added. At the national events, teams are divided into squads of five and Southold will be taking 15 competitors. 

“Just getting the cadets outside and doing something other than [being] in the classroom makes me happy,” he said. “But watching the teamwork of the cadets in the units helping each other, even cadets from other units helping each other, really is what brings the spirit of the Navy Junior ROTC together.” 

Anyone interested in supporting or donating can contact Mr. McAllister at [email protected], or Major William Grigonis at [email protected]. Checks may also be sent to Southold NJROTC, 420 Oaklawn Ave., Southold, NY 11971, attn: Maj. Grigonis.