For the first time in North Oconee High School’s history, there are two female athletes who have been recruited and appointed to U.S. military academies.
Alexis Shirley, a swimmer, will attend the Air Force Academy in the fall. and Anna Jerald will play rugby at West Point.
Swimming has been a part of Alexis Shirley’s life since the summer after first grade and ever since 5th grade, she’s been swimming with AVSC Competitive Swim Academy affiliated with Abington Vale Swimming Club which takes place at UGA’s Ramsey Center.
Anna Jerald, on the other hand, is new to rugby.
Jerald said she played football in middle school and has been running for a while on the track and field team. She said that both of these two previous sports have influenced her while playing rugby, as this sport is heavily influenced by a combination of different sports.
“There aren’t many local rugby teams here. Last summer I played on a UGA Club team, but my only other opportunity was with a Women’s Rugby League in Atlanta, and those girls are women, not my age,” Jerald said.
Shirley said she reached out to the assistant coach at the Air Force Academy early in her junior year and that the recruiting rules for swimming are different that other sports.
“My mom was really surprised when she initially found out I was interested in the Air Force Academy, there is no family history of being in the military,” said Shirley.
For Anna Jerald, it’s a different story. Her whole family has served in one of the military branches, but she is the first girl from the family.
For Shirley and Jerald, the admission process wasn’t like many that we are familiar with.
“We had to do a CFA [Candidate Fitness Assessment] with push-ups, sit-ups, a mile run and all sorts of other things,” said Jerald.
On top of the physical test on the academies’ applications, both girls had to complete an interview with Congressman Jody Hice.
“Going to a military academy requires an appointment from one of two GA senators or a congressperson,” Shirley said.
“A lot of our friends are surprised, but they also don’t know a lot about military schools and how the process works,” Shirley said. “Some of my friends think I’m enlisting in the military right now,” Jerald added.
“Some of my friends think I’m enlisting in the military right now,” Jerald added.
Although they won’t be enlisting right now, Shirley and Jerald both will fulfill a 5-year service obligation following their graduation.
“After college, I will have a career in the military, meaning 20+ years,” Jerald said.
As for what they are looking forward to in the future, Shirley and Jerald are prepared for the obstacles that may present themselves, especially in basic training this summer.
Jerald is looking forward to what’s to come after starting school at West Point. “I’ve always wanted to serve and I’m finally getting the opportunity to learn how to lead,” she said.
By: Anna Kate Newall