A female cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point just set a new record on the grueling obstacle course that stands between every student and graduation.
On March 24, Cadet Elizabeth Bradley, Class of 2022, finished the Indoor Obstacle Course Test, or IOCT, in two minutes, 20 seconds, shattering Cadet Class '17 Madaline Kenyon's time of two minutes, 26 seconds, according to a West Point news release.
The exhausting indoor course puts cadets through 11 challenges that include a low crawl under a barrier, tire footwork, a two-handed vault, maneuvering over an eight-foot horizontal shelf and a challenging balance beam event.
Cadets also have to negotiate a 20-foot horizontal ladder and a 16-foot vertical rope climb to the top level of Hayes Gymnasium. The 350-meter sprint on the track includes a six-pound medicine ball sprint, a baton sprint and a final sprint the last 110 meters to the finish line.
"For anyone who has ever experienced the IOCT, there is no doubt that it is a physically and mentally challenging assessment of physical fitness," Col. Nicholas Gist, director of the Department of Physical Education, said in the release. "Regardless of current performance, the expectation is for cadets to continuously strive to demonstrate excellence. The Army and its soldiers deserve and expect leaders of character, and the IOCT is but one opportunity to develop performance-based character in the physical program."
The minimum IOCT graduation requirement is three minutes, 30 seconds for men and five minutes, 29 seconds for women, according to the release. Bradley achieved the highest grade of an A-plus for both the men's and women's standards. Females have to finish in less than three minutes, 11 seconds and males have to beat a score of two minutes, 26 seconds to max the IOCT, according to the release.
About 8%, or 85 cadets, from the Class of 2021 earned the A-plus grade, with an equal representation of men and women.
"Receiving an A-plus grade on the men's scale is a good feeling because no one can tell me I didn't deserve it or had an easier standard," Bradley said in the release.
Bradley, a competitive athlete, started training six weeks out by shifting her typical workout routine toward a speed and anaerobic focus with the goal of beating her score last year of two minutes, 27 seconds. She also trained with Class of 2021 Cadet Trevaun Turner, who broke the men's record for the IOCT with a score of one minute, 54 seconds in 2019, according to the release.
"We did lots of sprint workouts that he did during his preparation," Bradley said. "My improvement from last year to this year was made up almost entirely on the ... track portion of the IOCT. I knew this was the area that I had the most potential to improve just by increasing my speed and fitness."
But Bradley admits the course wasn't much easier this year.
"The balance beam is always a daunting obstacle because it has the most room for error," Bradley said in the release. "If you fall off it, you have to go back and do it again.
"I would say the IOCT is 90% mental. It's probably one of the most challenging physical events we are required to do at West Point. It requires you to push yourself past what you think you are capable of."
Maj. Sarah Ferreira, a Department of Physical Education instructor, has seen thousands of cadets take the IOTC, but Bradley's performance was one of those few that stand apart.
"Cadet Bradley's performance was truly exceptional," Ferreira said in the release. "It was evident that Cadet Bradley's deliberate preparation, focused training efforts and hard work paid off.
"Last year, in 2020, she was one second away from tying the female IOCT record and this year she came back and beat it by six seconds, which is quite a large time margin for the IOCT."
Bradley, who hopes to be selected for the Engineers branch, "really excelled at the horizontal bars and the rope climb," Ferreira said.
"She completed the horizontal bars in under seven seconds and got up the rope in two locks," Ferreira said in the release. "She was extremely efficient with her movements and executed a flawless floor routine, which set her up for success on the track portion of the test."
Bradley doesn't have to take the IOCT next year because she scored an A-plus, but she's determined to break her own record.
"I know it's possible, but it will surely take a lot more training," she said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.