The 11 Gonzaga students sacrificed sleep and social lives to train for this: the chance to throw mock grenades, assemble machine guns and run 10 kilometers on a gray, nasty Sunday.
They were the green team of Gonzaga’s ROTC Bulldogs battalion, a group of M-16-toting cadets who had been getting up at 4:30 every morning to do push-ups in preparation for this day.
On Sunday, they were competing in the annual Task Force Palouse Ranger Challenge on Gonzaga’s campus. About 120 cammo-clad cadets from four schools were trying to see who could tear down and rebuild a gun the fastest, throw a grenade with the accuracy of Joe Montana and spin a rope bridge like a hyper spider.
Gonzaga, the defending champion, fielded four teams - green, blue, gold and the elite black team; the guys in the best shape, the ones who do 80 to 90 push-ups in a row, according to their coach, Sgt. 1st Class Claude Hansard.
While the green team may not have been able to run as fast or throw as far as the boys in black, they had no lack of military moxie.
They hollered. They shook their fists. They grimaced. They called themselves ladies.
The greens were one of only two all-women teams at the event. They were having a great time.
“Can we do one with our Ranger faces?” asked Jennifer Gence, team captain. The group had just posed for a photographer with smiles. Now they gritted their teeth, clenched one hand in a fist and growled.
“If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right,” Samantha Mitchell said.
They joined ROTC because they came from military families, were enticed by the scholarship money and wanted to challenge themselves, green team members said.
They got the money, found the challenge and have become 11 best friends. ROTC is their social life, one cadet joked.
“We really can’t get away from each other,” said Bryn Clothier. Sitting next to her were teammates Amanda Gerding, Nam-Hyun Lee, Lindsay Ramsey, Anne McClain, Diana Gamble, Kelly O’Rourke and Jennifer Corey.
They train four hours a day together. Some of them are roommates. All of them are committed to never leaving anyone behind.
At noon, nine of them would compete in a 10 kilometer run. They would carry packs and eight-pound rifles. Under the rules of the run, one runner may be dropped, but eight must finish together - as a team.
That wasn’t good enough for this group: “We are starting with nine and we are finishing with nine. We won’t drop anybody, unless someone breaks a leg,” said Gence, who other members described as the team’s “caffeine high.”
The morning was cold and windy. The sky sputtered rain. Spectators shivered, clutched cups of coffee and hunched their shoulders.
The green team likes the rain. It keeps them cool.
“If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training,” Jolene Glosenger said.
Despite their best efforts, the team did not finish as nine together. A serious ankle injury prevented one from continuing the race. But the remaining eight crossed the line arm in arm. They ended up overall winners against the Washington State University ROTC women’s team.
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