Office of Undergraduate Education

Penn State Army ROTC team wins regional Ranger Challenge competition

The 16-person team will go on to a competition at West Point in April

The Penn State Ranger Challenge competition team posed with their cadre at the Lion Shrine at the University Park campus. Credit: Sean Yoder / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A team of 16 Penn State Army ROTC cadets won the 2nd Brigade Ranger Challenge competition on Oct. 24, beating 44 other teams from ROTC programs in the northeast.  

Hosted by Joint Base Mcguire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, the annual competition has cadets face a series of events that challenge them physically and mentally. Leading up to the event, the Penn State team practiced every weekday morning (and on some afternoons) in addition to their usual ROTC duties, academic courses and personal workouts, said Lt. Col. Daniel Gross, professor of military science at Penn State. 

“We can view this as the varsity sport of ROTC,” said Gross. “I think they put as much time into this as any student athlete.” 

Capt. Charles Brady, a military science and leadership instructor who advised the team, said such competitions put cadets to the test in terms of character and discipline. 

“It’s really about building an enriched team,” Brady said. “The mission for any university, and Penn State specifically, is to develop competent leaders of character.” 

In April, the Penn State team will travel to the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at the United States Military Academy in New York. The competition not only features teams from West Point and other military services in the U.S., but also international teams. 

The Penn State Ranger Challenge team was captained by three four-year cadets: Graham Bordo, Adeline Hester and Samuel Purchase. The captains devised a weeklong selection course during the second week of classes in the fall 2021 semester to decide who would make the cut.  

Though the team is coming off a hard-earned win, the captains said they immediately started looking forward to the next competition at West Point. 

“We were all pretty excited — we were stoked,” Purchase said of the hours after the competition. “We were eating dessert that a lot of the parents brought, but as soon as we were finished with that, we were all talking about how we were going to train for the next competition.” 

Penn State hasn’t won the Range Challenge competition since 2013, so none of the cadets have experience with Sandhurst. Now, they’ll have a few more months to become stronger, faster and operate better as a single unit. 

"The train-up for Ranger Challenge is only about six weeks,” Hester said. “Now we have until April to train until the next competition. Honestly, this competition is just to try to gain more time with the team. Otherwise, we would be done until next year's Ranger Challenge competition. It's really nice that we now have five months with the team instead of just six weeks.” 

Bordo said in the short-term, team members will work on their own personal physical fitness and team training will resume in the spring. 

This year’s team consisted of: 

  • Graham Bordo, team captain, fourth year, security and risk analysis major and information sciences and technology minor 
  • Adeline Hester, team captain, fourth year, criminology and human development and family studies major and military studies minor 
  • Samuel Purchase, team captain, fourth year, international relations major and military studies minor 
  • Garrett Young, third year, mechanical engineering major 
  • Cameron Marshall, third year, kinesiology major 
  • Frank Miele, third year, psychology major and Arabic minor 
  • Evan Waitte, third year, supply chain management major and legal environment of business minor 
  • Zachary Zotti, second year, nursing major 
  • Mathew Mendoza, second year, kinesiology major 
  • Nathan Monday, second year, history major and military studies minor 
  • Victoria Purchase, first year, security and risk analysis major and military studies minor 
  • Nathaniel Bampton, first year, physics major 
  • Joseph Mazzarella, first year, supply chain management major and military studies minor 
  • Zachry Stromfors, first year, forensics major 
  • Alexander Rieth, first year, cyber security analytics and operations major 
  • Samantha Lange, first year, international relations major and military studies minor 

This year’s Ranger Challenge competition featured nine events: a team physical fitness challenge; tactical combat casualty care; burden, where teams must move equipment through a course in the fastest possible time; weapons familiarization; hand grenade assault course; one-rope bridge; obstacle course; land navigation, and a six-mile march while carrying 35 pounds. 

Army ROTC is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at


Last Updated November 05, 2021