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Bingham High to send five members of Class of 2016 to US Service Academies

SOUTH JORDAN — Bingham High School senior Charlie Baggett had to get a personal nomination from a member of Utah’s congressional delegation as part of his college application.

But that wasn’t the hardest part.

His application also included an assortment of strength and cardiovascular drills, medical examinations, essays and interviews on leadership experience, and academic recommendations from several teachers. Once he enrolls, the real work will begin.

But a diverse set of lifelong rewards are worth the unique challenges of attending one of the five U.S. service academies, according to Baggett, who was recently admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“It’s unlike anything else,” Baggett said.

Bingham High School is sending five members of its class of 2016 to U.S. service academies.

It’s an uncommon occurrence given that each student’s admittance to a military school is a rarity in itself. Rigorous physical and academic standards limit enrollment, which is coveted by thousands of qualified applicants.

West Point, for example, typically receives almost14,000 initial applications, only 4,100 of which get nominations by congressional representatives, who are limited in the number of students they can recommend. More than 2,300 students are later deemed academically and physically qualified, and fewer than 1,300 are admitted.

Seventy percent of West Point cadets rank in the top 20 percent of their high school class, and the majority have ACT scores of 26 or higher, according to the academy.

Similar vetting occurs at the other four academies.

Three Bingham students will go to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado; one will enter the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; and one — Baggett — will attend West Point in New York.

“I’ve been in education for 32 years, and I’ve never heard of five from one school. Most schools are lucky to get one,” said Bingham assistant principal Michael Hughes, who’s worked at several schools in Utah and California. “There’s a culture of excellence at Bingham, and these guys have really taken that culture and catapulted it forward with what they’re doing.”

As is common for many future cadets or midshipmen, sports has played a deciding role in academy admission for the five Bingham seniors. Students don’t pay tuition or housing expenses while they attend in exchange for five years of active duty military service after graduation. But sports is still a way in for many cadets.

“I never thought about joining the military until they offered me a football scholarship,” said Ethan Erickson, a member of Bingham’s varsity football team.

Erickson and his classmate, Parker Workman, will both play football at the Air Force Academy, where Adam Haynes will also participate in cross-country and track. Christian Swensen will compete in wrestling at the Naval Academy, and Baggett will play rugby at the Military Academy.

Basic training will start in June.

“They’ve told me that with basic training this summer, they’re going to push me to my breaking point, just push, push, push,” Haynes said. “I’m excited to see what they can get out of me because I don’t know my limits yet. I’m excited to be tested.”

Bingham’s head football coach, John Lambourne, said he’s watched Workman, Erickson and Baggett compete in athletics, and they “have proven themselves good leaders, have proven themselves good students.”

Lambourne said the “glamor” of a service academy can be alluring to many young athletes, and he tries to help his students understand how difficult an education there can be. But the rewards are also appealing.

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Bingham High to send five members of Class of 2016 to US Service Academies