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Basketball event connects cadets

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Sunday, February 26, 2012

The 26th annual Flyin’ Irish Basketball Invitational brought service men and women from across the country together for a weekend of friendly competition.

Organized and staffed by members of Notre Dame’s Air Force ROTC program, the Invitational serves as the largest ROTC sporting event in the nation, with all teams guaranteed a substantial number of games, according to junior Angela Ferreira, coordinator of the event.

“All ROTC branches the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force [were] represented,” she said. “The teams play through their brackets so that everyone is guaranteed at least three games.”

Teams from universities across the country, including Michigan State and Texas A&M, traveled to South Bend for the weekend to compete, Ferreira said.

“Many of the teams are local, but Texas A&M comes in every year and almost always wins,” she said. “We have four teams from the Notre Dame Air Force ROTC, two ND Navy ROTC teams, one Tri-Mil team with ND Army/Navy/Marines and one cross-town team from Trine [University] who is in our same detachment.”

Ferriera said the event connects students who will work in the same field after graduation.

“We have boards set up [at the event] for seniors that have lists of people who know which job type they will have, like intelligence or analysis, so they can meet some of the people they’ll end up working with,” she said. “The juniors have just finished field training as well, so they have the opportunity to reunite with people they met there.”

Additionally, Ferriera said the event provides an outlet for students to meet others whom they may not normally interact with.

“We don’t have a lot of chances to interact with other detachments now, but we’re all going to be in the Air Force or Army or whatever branch together after this,” she said.

Colton Kennelly, a freshman from Iowa State and a member of the university’s Air Force ROTC program, made the eight-hour trip to Notre Dame and enjoyed the interactive atmosphere.

“It was my first time at the Invitational, and it was a lot of fun playing a lot of basketball,” he said. “It really makes the ROTC experience something beyond drill and marching stuff all the time.”

Kennelly’s team lost to the ND Tri-Mil team in the semifinals Sunday, but he said the merit of the event was beyond winning or losing.

“It was fun to bond with some of the guys, work on our teamwork and just have a good time,” he said.

Sunday’s championship men’s game featured the Notre Dame Tri-Mil team against Texas A&M, with A&M pulling away in the overtime win.

Additionally, the Notre Dame women’s Air Force team fell to Marquette’s Navy team in the women’s bracket final.