Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Pine Creek threesome headed to service academies

by BRENT W. NEW preps@gazette.com -by BRENT W. NEW preps@gazette.com - Published: February 2, 2014

Pine Creek swimmer John Frank relied on his past to make one of the biggest decisions about his future.

On signing day Wednesday at Pine Creek High School, he, along with golfer Mary Kate Nelson and girls' swimmer Madison Cooper will follow long family traditions, as well as their own successes, when they make it official to further their education and athletic careers at a service academy.

Each weighed their options elsewhere (Cooper even saying she applied "to like a million places"), but it is expected that Cooper will be covered in Air Force gear when she signs, Nelson will be in a 'Navy' shirt and Frank will flick his wrist to make it a "perfect fit" at the Coast Guard Academy.

"I grew up with military parents, and my grandpa threw me out in the water when I was really young. That, along with serving my country, it seemed like a no-brainer," Frank said.

Frank, however, only makes it all sound so easy. To get to this point, each of these seniors not only excelled in their respective sports, but were near the top of their 2014 class, academically.

With GPAs circling around 4.0, Nelson and her crushing long game won her 5A regional before she played through an injured rib and finished 27th at the 5A state meet; Frank broke pool records, won 23 events and placed at 5A state in the 100 butterfly (10th) and the 100 backstroke (13th) as a junior; and Cooper - an unquestioned leader and mentor for the girls' swimming program, according to Eagles coach Steve Owsley - battled back from illnesses during her sophomore and junior seasons to win 16 events this season headed into the Colorado Springs Metro League meet Friday and Saturday.

Despite that, however, all three still went through a rigorous and fairly brutal admission process to get into the school of their choice, as well as coming to the honest realization that balancing freshman military life and athletic life will be a very hard one.

"The hours will be very long, no question. It'll take some impressive time management," Cooper said. "But it'll be worth it for sure."

Pine Creek's signing day starts at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday. Beside Nelson, Cooper and Frank on a sure-to-be long wooden table, softball player Kayla Boyd is expected to sign her intent with Cornell College (Iowa) and girls' soccer player Jennifer Kahle is expected to make it official with Western State.

It'll be a story about their past and future.

"This is about the next step," Frank said.

"It's exciting to look forward while remembering everything it took to get here."

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