Three varsity team members from South Aiken High School’s orienteering program finished in the top five individuals of the U.S. Navy National Championship last week – helping the varsity to a first-place finish over 27 other teams from throughout the country.

They are Jacob Pryzware, Josh Livinston and Alex Hightower.

The entire team in all divisions took fourth overall at the meet in Maryland.

Instructor and Petty Officer Richard Barnes has coached the orienteering program for 13 years. The team has won the state championship for the past three years, and as a result, got an automatic invite to the nationals this year. The team also served as host for this year’s state meet, held at Mistletoe State Park near Phinizy, Ga.

The squad finished in the top five in the nationals last year, as well.

As a new freshman cadet three years ago, Pryzwara had seen a video about orienteering and thought it would be fun.

The sport requires competitors to run through a wide range of terrain that usually includes hills and requires the availability to navigate through it. The nationals were held in Upper Marlboro, Md. It was relatively mild on Saturday’s first race, but the runners had to deal with windchill conditions at roughly 16 degrees.

“There were more fields than we were used to, and the hills were really steep with a lot of climbing,” Pryzwara said. “But once you start running, your body warms up and you feel good.”

Ron Livingston, Josh’s father, said via email that the cadets used topographic maps and compasses to get through a course nearly three miles long. The route provided not only hills, but also streams, and marshes at Patuxent River Park.

Individual scores are combined to determine the team score at each level. The course gets progressively more difficult and longer at the intermediate, JV and varsity levels.

The other South Aiken team members included Josh Price, Steven Sheets, Cullen Hightower, Sarah Mell, Zachary Johnson, Abbie Pryzwara, Adrian Coleman, Greg Flippen, Sarah Pryzwara and Nathan Leopard.

“A lot of us were shocked by how cold it was,” Flippen said. “There was a lot of mud and slippery conditions, but we like a challenge.”

After high school, he and Przywara plan to find orienteering clubs to find another outlet for their favorite sport.

To get ready for a practice round at Mistletoe and for the nationals, “We did 16 laps in the bleachers,” Barnes said.