Nine athletes had been presented Wednesday afternoon at West Forsyth, all seniors celebrating the continuation of their athletic career to the collegiate level.
There was softball player Carlie Behan (Georgia College); girls lacrosse player Madison Voshall (Piedmont); swimmers Jenna MacKay (Wingate) and Sheridan Schreiber (Arizona State); boys lacrosse players James Grohovac (Young Harris) and Carson Smith (Ohio Northern University); and baseball players Bowen Bock (Kennesaw State), Zach Burns (Young Harris) and Cade Owens (Presbyterian).
One athlete remained, and one who Wolverines athletic director Brett Phipps could give a special introduction: Jack Haller, defending state champion.
The senior pole vaulter signed a letter of intent to the United States Naval Academy, fulfilling his own athletic aspirations but also strengthening a family tradition: Haller’s older brother and sister went to the Naval Academy, and another is there now. Plus, both his parents went to the United States Air Force Academy.
“A lot of people don't know what they're getting into (at service academies), but I feel pretty prepared for it,” Haller said. “I'm excited for it.”
Haller made his name this past spring when he won the Class 7A state championship in the pole vault clearing 15 feet 6 inches. At the time, Haller had no prospects of extending his athletic career. He wasn’t even that interested in attending the Naval Academy.
That changed over the summer. Haller attended a seminar at the academy for potential applicants. One day was set aside for athletes to meet the program’s coaches. Haller filled out a simple questionnaire with his contact information and athletic achievements. It didn’t take long for Navy’s pole vaulting coach to track down Haller.
“He called me into his office, and we started talking. There was a really strong connection,” Haller said, “and that’s what really got me interested.”
Haller found out he got accepted in August, an unusually early decision for service academies. On Wednesday, he got to celebrate that decision with West’s other nine signees.
Now, Haller has turned his focus toward the spring and defending his state championship.
“I'm just going to treat it like I did last year,” Haller said. “My goal is to be a state champion, and I'll do it again hopefully, and I'll do everything the same as last year. Just because I was a state champion last year doesn't mean I can take any days off. I still have to work just as hard.”