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The Challenge Level Competition
at the
National High School
Drill Team Championships

Looking to Attend?


The Challenge Level competition of the National High School Drill Team Championships has begun a new era of competition drill in Daytona Beach. For years, many drill programs had great trepidation regarding attending the Nationals though they knew they had little chance of winning any awards. They clamored to attend the Nationals anyway to have their cadets be a part of this fantastic drill experience. The Challenge Level drill meet was created to satisfy these schools to allow them to attend a superior competition within an amazing environment at a reduced competition level to better match their own. But as the event gets more established as the years pass, the overall talent and competition level within the Challenge Level continues to creep closer and closer to that of the older Masters Level competition.

The competition field has been expanded to maintain roughly 45 schools and the spaces fill very quickly.

When is the Challenge Level being held?
The Challenge Level competition is always a single-day drill competition held on Saturday during the Nationals competition weekend at the Daytona Beach Ocean Center Arena. The competition begins early in the morning and end around 1800. The Challenge Level Awards Ceremony is planned to begin immediately following the conclusion of the Challenge Level Knockout Drill. Competing schools generally arrive the day prior to the competition, on Friday, to register for the event and compete the following day. Many schools are electing to extend their hotel stay, thereby taking the opportunity to become spectators at the two-day Masters Level drill competition segment of the Nationals, held the following two days on Sunday and Monday.

What is the Challenge Level all about?
The Challenge Level will allow both Armed & Unarmed drill teams the ability to enter the Nationals, with their competition coming from teams who more closely equal their drill talent. This division, begun during the large expansion in JROTC decades ago, has changed from a division for new programs and novice teams to a division of talented teams who just can't match the skill and expertise found amoung the better programs in the nation. This Challenge Level concept gives more cadets a competitive chance of earning recognition and awards against their peers while still being a part of the overall Nationals experience.

What events will the Challenge Level feature?
Both Armed and Unarmed Divisions will maintain the following events:
  1. Unit Inspection
  2. Regulation
  3. Color Guard
  4. Exhibition

Actual team sizes and floor dimensions used for these events are listed within the General SOP for the Nationals

Drill units may enter all four events, or just some of the events (though these "partial entries" are very limited and are accepted late). Priority in entering the Challenge Level is always given to those teams competing in all events and thereby attempting to capture a Championship within either the Armed or the Unarmed Challenge Level competition.

Who will be Accepted into the Challenge Level?
Those demilitarized arms and unarmed competition units whose strength on the drill floor does not warrant placement into the Masters Level of the Nationals will be accepted into the Challenge Level. Again, this division is just a step down from the Masters Level competition with many very talented schools. Geographic and service diversity is also considered carefully when applications come in, to ensure the event remains a true all-service, national championship competition. Note: All teams competing with facsimile weapons OR teams with a ;arge percentag of team members in each event who are female will still compete during the Masters Level competition in the Mixed Division (formerly called the Alternative Arms Division.

The Challenge Division has affectionately become known as the "JV Nationals". Some powerful schools annually plan to enter one competition team into the Masters Level and a younger, less experienced team into the Challenge Level. Many smaller programs, as well as newer programs make their mark in the Challenge Level competition. Many schools are planning to utilize the Challenge Level to give their freshman/JV teams valuable drill experience at the Nationals. All of these types of entries will be considered for entry.

Schools who have not attended the Nationals in recent history will be evaluated on their overall finishes at recent regional and local drill competitions, as well as instructor/peer evaluations. While we encourage all units to look inward to best determine where THEY believe they belong, the ultimate authority regarding who will be accepted into which competition division will be Sports Network International, Event Manager for the National High School Drill Team Championships.

What are the Differences Between the Challenge Level & Masters Level?
This can be boiled down to several themes - competition strength, costs and overall presentation value. Challenge level schools are, by definition, teams wishing to be placed into a less exclusive competition field to better compete with other programs that more closely resemble their own skill level. Also, the School Registration Fee to attend the one-day Challenge Level event is only $200 vs. $300 for the two-day Masters Level. The event being a day longer can necessitate a longer hotel stay than the Challenge event. The awards ceremony for the Challenge Level will be exciting but will be "quick & dirty" and will not maintain the same formal, glamorous style experienced as the Masters Level. One team exhibition competition is offered on the Challenge Level which makes 75% of the scoring based on "basic" events, versus just 60% in the Masters Level. The Challenge Level maintains no solo or dual competition. All other Team Package items (shirts, medallions, patches, photos, etc.) outlined on the NHSDTC Invitation are included as a part of the Challenge Level Package. Both levels use the same competition site, judges (though they may judge different EVENTS between the two competition days), event SOP's, drills and total professionalism that have become a trademark at the Nationals.

Is the Challenge Level a part of the Nationals?
Yes, the Challenge Level and Masters Level are entry divisions of the Nationals. Cadets, Instructors and team followers who attend the Nationals will receive the same event materials and other items, regardless of what competition level your team is placed in.

I'm not sure which level I should register my team in at the Nationals?
Schools MUST choose on the Nationals Registration Form which competition level they would prefer to enter. Teams are ENCOURAGED to call Justin Gates, Competition Director for SNI to talk about the best fit for your program. The ultimate placement decision is made by Sports Network International but your choice is given first consideration. A good rule of thumb is that if your team places in the top three at most larger local or small regional drill competitions, then you should be competing within the Masters Level competition. If not, the Challenge Level may be for you.

Any school not accepted into the competition division they have chosen will be given the opportunity to either:
  1. Enter the competition level they have been moved into or;
  2. Obtain a full refund of their Registration Fee and withdraw from the Nationals competition entirely.

If a school wishes to change their choice after registration, this can sometimes be allowed depending on how soon the change is requested and whether the team can be accepted into the other competition level.

When Should my School Register to Attend?
First, schools should carefully read the official invitation, the rules and scoresheets, costs to attend and all other items surrounding an attendance at the Nationals. After this, contacting event manager Sports Network International with any questions would be strongly recommended as well.

To keep schools from racing to the post office immediately after receiving their DrillNATION Magazine or after reviewing the materials on-line, ALL SCHOOLS who register by the early December entry deadline outlined within the publication are guaranteed acceptance and a competition slot at the Nationals. This deadline generally makes any school registering BEFORE the Winter holiday break included in the event. This allows schools to be GUARANTEED a slot to better allow school board permission, bus/air travel and other time consuming items to begin their process BEFORE the new year hits. While many competition slots are expected to be available AFTER this date, those schools that wait until the last few days prior to the deadline to mail their entry package really risk their acceptance. Weather influences, lost mail, etc. can make your trip a non-starter if your package is not received by the deadline. DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. Regardless of when you enter, give yourself a couple of extra days to ensure your package is in the SNI office by the deadline.

To Register for the NHSDTC
To register your school into the Nationals, please click on the link that says GRAB YOUR COMPETITION SLOT TODAY (found on this form in the upper right side of the page). All entry is done on-line. Teams must fill out some basic info about the program, the entry sought, and then the payment method to pay for the registration fee (note: teams can click "Pay by Mail" to have a check mailed to SNI at a later date.

All Nationals registrations entered by the early December "early acceptance" deadline are accepted. Many spaces will be available after this deadline but for schools traveling from a great distance to attend, using the early acceptance wed by the competition committee of SNI beginning on the early December deadline. Over that weekend, SNI will evaluate all entries on their merits and decide which schools can be accepted. This judgment will be based on many factors, but the largest of these include:

While most powerful returning schools to the Nationals register within weeks of receiving this invitation, a few schools wait. If you are sure you wish to attend, this could be a recipe for disaster! Schools who register after the early December review deadline only risk having your team unable to attend due to space limitations.

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