Four years ago, Blue Springs South High School Air Force Junior ROTC retired Col. Stan Cole had a dream.

He wanted to create a South Junior ROTC Raiders team that would travel the country to compete against the best of the best.

Seniors Nick Herman and Isaac Hummel, and other members of the Junior ROTC program, couldn’t even dream that big.

Yet, earlier this month, the dream became a reality as the Blue Springs South Junior ROTC Raiders, with Commander Hummel and Sergeant at Arms Herman leading the way, finished second at the All-Service Raider Nationals in Molena, Georgia.

They were the top national Air Force unit and brought back enough hardware from the national event to take over a downstairs classroom.

Raider is an athletic competition held among Junior ROTC programs around the country that combines fitness with leadership skills and teamwork.

The Blue Springs South team finished second in the demanding gauntlet, a mile-long obstacle course that began in the pitch-black hours of the competition at 7:30 a.m.

They claimed fifth place in the physical team test, which includes carrying large ammo cans, running through a course that includes tunnels, and finishing with more obstacles.

The Raiders were then fourth in the 5K, which included a 45-degree mile incline, and wrapped up the event by constructing and crossing a one-rope bridge over an icy river and taking fourth place.

Joining Hummel and Herman on the team are Logan Cobb, Jacob Crum, Thomas Hooten, Perry Hunt, Jeramiah Jones, Hayden Kolster, Chris Langston, Isidro Tamayo, Isaac Todd and Connor Wood.

All of this was done over one very chilly and exciting morning.

“It still hasn’t hit me yet. It just doesn’t seem real,” said Hummel, who was actively involved in the recent Community Unity Week in which students from both Blue Springs high schools collected goods that were donated to the Community Services League in Blue Springs. “Four years ago I didn’t even know if I was going to go into the Junior ROTC program. Now, I can say it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.”

Herman nodded in agreement.

“I was a team alternate that first year as a freshman, and now, we’re all part of the best Air Force Raider team in the country and the No. 2 overall team in the nation. I mean, it’s just overwhelming. I am so proud of what we accomplished.”

And so is Cole, who sat back as his Corps Commanders talked about one of the biggest days of their lives.

“Every day I come to work, I get to work with the best of the best,” said Cole, who shares leadership duties with retired Master Sgt. Ray Gonzales. “I didn’t know what to expect when we started the Raiders program four years ago.

“I guess, much like Isaac and Nick, I knew that we could accomplish something special if we all worked hard – and these guys put in the work and now, we’re all living out our dreams.”