(This story has been re-printed with permission the Topeka Capitol-Journal)
Supporters of Topeka High School's Marine Corps Junior ROTC drill team filled the school's sidewalks Sunday afternoon as they welcomed home the national high school champions.
The 42 members of the drill team won the top trophy when they competed during the weekend in the 19th Annual 2001 National High School Drill Team competition in Daytona Beach, Fla. A total of 77 teams from 25 states, Puerto Rico and Japan competed.
ROTC instructor Gunner Kelley said he was moved by the showing. Close to 100 people awaited the group's return.
"As we were pulling up and people were lining the streets, tears came to my eyes," Kelley said. "It goes to show the spirit of Topeka High School."
This was Topeka High's fourth year competing in nationals. Last year, the team members were runners-up.
Capt. Joshua Griffeth, senior and commander of the silent drill team, said he was excited for the group.
"I went down last year, and we placed second," Griffeth said. "This year we did twice as good. This was the best possible way for me to end my senior year."
The competition was divided into two divisions -- armed and unarmed.
The armed division was for all teams drilling with demilitarized (heavy) weapons. The unarmed division is for all teams drilling without weapons. Topeka High competed in both.
Overall, Topeka High came home with six trophies. The team placed fifth in unarmed inspection; fourth in armed color guard and armed regulation; first in armed inspection and armed exhibition; as well as winning the national championship trophy in the armed division. The team also won several individual awards.