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Madison Ahlers is not one to back down from a challenge.
So it makes sense that in the next phase of her life she wants to become a helicopter pilot.
Ahlers, a three-sport athlete at Los Alamos High School, signed her National Letter of Intent last week to attend the United States Coast Guard Academy. Ahlers will attend an academy prep school in 2011-12 and board the academy’s ship the following year.
Once she gets there, she will play both soccer and compete in both the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons.
The Coast Guard Academy, one of the smallest of the country’s service academies, is located in New London, Conn. The CGA is the only academy which doesn’t require a congressional appointment to attend, but has thousands of applicants every year. This year, only about 10 percent of the applicants were accepted.
“It’s exciting, but it was definitely nerve-wracking,” said Ahlers. “I applied in October and I just found out in April.”
Ahlers will have her year at the prep school to concentrate on her grades and to get acclimated to the military life. When she does get to the academy, she will have all four years of her athletic eligibility intact.
Following her time at the CGA, she will serve her mandatory five years in the U.S. Coast Guard.
That service is just fine with her.
“I’ve always been interested in the military,” Ahlers said. “I like the aspect of helping people and the Coast Guard seemed like the most humane.”
She said watching Coast Guard personnel aiding with victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and last year’s Gulf Coast oil spill disaster went a long way to deciding she wanted to be involved.
She’s hoping to be involved in the Coast Guard’s search-and-rescue efforts or its drug-enforcement duties.
“I want to be a helicopter pilot. That’s my first goal,” Ahlers said.
It was a busy week for Ahlers last week. In addition to signing her letter of intent, Ahlers was also prepping for the state Class 4A track and field meet.
Late in the day on championship Saturday, Ahlers was disqualified from the 400 meter dash, an event she had a solid chance of winning.
She cradled her face in her hands in frustration and disappointment following the false start disqualification, but pulled herself together in time to anchor the 1600 relay team to victory in the final event of the day, cementing a big win for the Hilltoppers, as they clinched their third consecutive state title, each of which she’s had a hand in.
In soccer, Ahlers was a first-team All-Class 4A fullback this season. She was one of Los Alamos’ spiritual leaders as the team reached its third straight state title game.
Ahlers finished her senior season with four goals and four assists.
When she gets to the CGA, she might have to fight for playing time. The Bears’ soccer roster is packed with freshmen and sophomores in all positions.
In 2010, the Bears finished 6-10 overall, 1-8 in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference.
Before hearing from the CGA last month, Ahlers said she was close to signing with Baker University in Kansas, which was also seeking her services as an athlete.
“It was kind of win-win on that point,” she said. “Either way, I would’ve gotten what I wanted.”
Ahlers will head to boot camp in mid-July to begin her time with the CGA. She hasn’t settled on a major yet, but is debating biology, forensic science or international relations.