High Desert Invitational, Ethan Murcia, September 3rd, 2015.


Every runner knows “The Wall.” 

Whether the race is a sprint or an endurance run, “The Wall” is there, waiting.

Runners hit “The Wall” when they feel like they can’t run any faster or any farther. Most runners, know, however, that “The Wall” is more psychological than physical.  If a person can physically push past the resistance the mind puts up, that person can perform at a higher level.  True champions know that “The Wall” doesn’t even exist.

Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Cadets know “The Wall” too. On top of a full academic course load, JROTC Cadets show up to practice marching and performing with sabers and mock weapons before school even starts. They make sure their uniforms are pressed and inspection-ready every week. They act as positive role models for their peers and for the community as a whole.  Heady stuff for a teenager, but these teens are true champions.

Kamal Muhammad is one such cadet.  A senior at Knight High School, Cadet Muhammad is a sprinter, excelling in the 100 meter dash, the 200 meter dash, the 400 meter run, and the 4x100 and 4x200 relay races.  He also holds a leadership position in the JROTC program, where he’s responsible for taking 45 high school freshmen through the academic, physical and military challenges of the JROTC program.  “Being in JROTC helped me gain a lot of experience in leadership and discipline,” said Muhammad.  “We build better citizens,” and he is glad to be a part of that process.

Cadet Emilio Garcia has been running for more than 10 years. He comes from a family of runners, saying his parents both encouraged him to run. He’s a distance runner, enjoying 3-mile cross-country runs as well as the 3,200 meters in track, as well as the “shorter” 800- and 1600-meter runs.

Cadet Garcia is eager to run the 100th JROTC Anniversary 5k race sponsored by Knight High School’s JROTC Corps of Cadets.  He said, “I think it’s a great opportunity to be part of such a milestone. I’m very passionate when it comes to running, and [the JROTC program] has also allowed me to give back to the community.”

JROTC is a program that seeks to produce great citizens for America. JROTC Cadets practice leadership and team-building in a dynamic, real environment, and they perform service projects that show America’s teenagers are still community-minded. Although the program does not push students to join the military (and in fact there is no obligation to join as part of being in JROTC), the military virtues of professionalism, patriotism, pride, teamwork are a fundamental part of the program. 

The program is also designed to be a place where youth can set their own goals and then stretch to achieve them. JROTC cadets often find themselves doing more and performing at level they didn’t realize they were capable of achieving. Cadet Cindy Chavez, for example, said, “The JROTC program has motivated me to do great things. The program has also caused me to push myself to be well-prepared for basic training when I join the active-duty military.”

Cadet Samantha Zavala sees the 100th JROTC Anniversary 5k race as a natural combination for her. “I feel proud to participate in these events. These two programs are close to my heart,” She said. Cadet Zavala has been running for only 3 years, but in that time she has learned that running allows her to prove to herself that she is stronger than the situation in which she finds herself. She said, “I am willing to put myself through pain to be successful in my races, and in life.”

Some cadets are using this anniversary run as a reason to say they participated in a world-record event, or at least a world-record attempt. Cadet Ethan Murcia, a KHS cross-country runner, said, “This event is a great example of physicality and enjoyment. It’s also a great chance to help achieve a goal set by Headquarters AFJROTC.”

Everyone, sooner or later, hits “The Wall.” But for the JROTC Cadets at Knight High School who run the race with enthusiasm, “The Wall” is merely a bump in the road, on the way to achieving personal and professional goals that are worth the effort.



High Desert Invitational, Paloma Vista CA, September 3rd 2015. JROTC Cadet Ethan Murcia (x206) runs past Edwin Zuniga (49).


Samantha Zavalla (2nd from left, back row) and Emilio Garcia (4th from right, back row), and Mario Fernandez (in shades) after the High Desert Invitational, September 3rd 2015.


Ethan Murcia (1429) at the Seaside Invitational, Buenaventura CA, September 11, 2015.                                                                                             

Samantha Zavala (144) High Desert Invitational, Paloma Park CA, September 3rd 2015.


Ethan Murcia (3rd from right) Quartz Hill High School cross country meet, September 16th 2015. Peeking over Ethan’s right ear is Emilio Garcia…


Edwin Zuniga (925) at the Bell-Jeff Invitational, Griffith Park CA September 26th 2015.


Edwin Zuniga at Staub-Barnes Invitational, Cresenta Valley Park, October 3rd 2015.