The fight to take flight

    Kat Kochansky

    More stories from Kat Kochansky

    Georgia’s hidden gems
    February 23, 2021

    The competition to receive a spot at one of the United States’ military academies is tougher than many of the nation’s famous Ivy league schools. For Etowah senior Sophia Stewart, there is no path too steep or muddy to stop her from becoming a future Air Force Academy Cadet.

    “I’m applying to the Naval and Air Force Academies, so Colonel Bergey allowed me to work with the JROTC team this year in order to prepare,” Stewart said.

    Currently ranked second in the senior class, Stewart wanted to round out her resume with Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) experience to increase her chances of getting into an academy. After joining the team for practices this year, Stewart soon rose to the top of the female athletes because of her strength and speed. 

    “After a few months, I got clearance to compete with them, and I actually became the captain of the girls. We do different events, like ruck runs where you carry weight, and some other messier and muddier stuff, too,” Stewart said.

    This past weekend, Stewart led the team at JROTC nationals. During her event, she was unexpectedly injured, but continued to trudge on and finished sixth.

    “I had to scale an eight foot wall at the end of a mile and a half run, and during my first attempt to climb, I fell off and broke my arm right. I thought it was just sprained, and I was determined to finish, so I kept climbing and actually continued to break it as I scaled and went over the top of the wall,” Stewart said. 

    This unexpected injury might have ended Stewart’s season early, but the rest of the team will move on to a few more competitions. Although Stewart never expected to be a part of the team, she focuses on the privilege and excitement that comes with being a member of a group that collaborates and works together.

    “There is so much that you learn from pushing yourself, doing things that suck, and dragging yourself through mud, and doing awful stuff. It really shows you that you’re much stronger than you ever expected,” Stewart said.

    This past weekend, Stewart received an official offer from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.