The application process to get into any of the U.S. military academies is long and arduous for high school students, whether or not they are athletes.
Admission requires a combination of exemplary high school academic performance, high standardized test scores, participation in athletics and extracurricular activities, leadership experience and community involvement. Most applicants even procure a congressional letter of nomination.
Grace Christian star multi-sport athletes Luke Lentfer and David Sliwinski embarked on that journey together with the hopes of attending the U.S. Air Force Academy together.
“It’s definitely a process to get all that application stuff done, so we kind of helped each other out a little bit and we shared our experiences, which was helpful,” Lentfer said.
They both signed their national letters of intent to compete in their respective sports at the next level last Wednesday in their school’s gymnasium.
However, Sliwinski will be the only one of the two attending the Air Force Academy, where he will continue running in cross country and track and field.
Lentfer was initially going to join his classmate in El Paso County, Colorado, but received a better offer to play rugby at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Sliwinski was a prolific distance runner in high school for the Grizzlies, winning state titles in both sports. He was named the 2022-23 boys Gatorade Player of the Year in cross country for Alaska.
“My family kind of pushed me to achieve excellence and get the best education and I think the Air Force is one of the best educations, especially for getting my pilot’s license,” Sliwinski said.
He wants to fly jets in the Air Force and was inspired to pursue that career by his father, John Sliwinski.
“My dad is my inspiration for flying,” David Sliwinski said. “He’s a pilot, so I want to follow his footsteps.”
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Lentfer was a star on the hardwood for the Grizzlies throughout his high school career. That included being named 3A Player of the Year as a junior and helping lead the team to a state championship as a senior.
“Basketball was definitely my main sport while I was doing it, so it was definitely kind of hard to focus on rugby, but during the offseason, there was plenty of time in the summer to decompress and have fun playing rugby,” he said. “I have to switch gears and have a whole lot of learning to do. I’m definitely not 100% familiar with the game yet.”
He met the assistant athletic director at Army while competing in his first rugby tournament in Florida last summer and was put in contact with the coaching staff at the academy.
“They invited me to one of their summer camps, so I went there and got a chance to meet and talk to them,” Lentfer said. “That went pretty well and we went from there.”
He got quite the crash course in the sport last summer. In addition to traveling with the Alaska Youth Rugby League to Florida and attending Army’s camps, Lentfer also participated in the youth and adult portion of the talent ID camp hosted by the Seattle Seawolves, a professional rugby team.
Lentfer had hoped to attend one of the military academies whether he’d be playing a sport there or not.
Army has one of the best Division I rugby programs in the country and is the reigning NCAA Division 1A men’s rugby national champion. Lentfer didn’t anticipate that he would have a chance to both participate in athletics and serve his country when he first took up the sport.
“I definitely didn’t expect that when I first started playing rugby and it kind of came as a surprise to my family, but it’s definitely going to be a cool opportunity,” he said. “I hope I can represent my family, Christ and the state of Alaska as well.”
He doesn’t have his major nailed down just yet but knows it’s going to be in the realm of engineering.
The Anchorage Daily News asked coaches, parents and student-athletes to report individual college commitments. The following list is a compilation of those responses along with reporting from ADN sports reporter Josh Reed. If you know of a local student-athlete who could be included in a future article on college commitments, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tatum Porter will play soccer at University of Hawaii Manoa in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she will reunite with one of her former club coaches, Kaula Rowe, who is an assistant coach for the Rainbow Warriors’ women’s team.
Isabelle Borke will compete in swimming at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho.
Hannah Boyce will compete in swimming at Minnesota State University Mankato in Mankato, Minnesota.
Maia Struble will compete in bowling at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Earl Parker will play football at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Niko Alailefaleula will play football at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah.
Jordan Alarcon will play soccer at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington.
Nour Amer will play football at the University of Montana Western in Dillon, Montana.
James Carpenter will play football at Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Arizona.
Emily Duvall will compete in cross country and track and field at Indiana Tech University in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Breckin Fett will play soccer at the University at Albany in Albany County, New York.
Matt Gordon will play soccer at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington.
Scott Griffith will play football at the College of Redwoods Eureka, California.
Alexa Hehl will play soccer at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida.
Gavin Kitchen will compete in swimming at Shasta College in Redding, California.
Alana Lim will compete in cross country and track and field at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.
Jevin Lim will compete in wrestling at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.
Christian Pont will play football at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska.
Aaron Power will compete in Nordic skiing at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Brady Rufner will play soccer at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, Washington.
Ellie Schuld will play soccer at Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri.
Meredith Schwartz will compete in Nordic skiing at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Camryn Stevens will play volleyball at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Nick Tremarco will play soccer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.
Zoe Witter will play soccer at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.
Emily Ross will play basketball at the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Luke Lentfer will play rugby at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Sloan Lentfer will play basketball at the University of Alaska Anchorage in Anchorage.
Buster Stubbs will play football and join his brother Bladen at Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Arizona.
David Sliwinski will compete in cross country and track and field at the Air Force Academy in El Paso County, Colorado.
Sayvia Sellers will play basketball at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.
Twin sisters Teal and Karlee Transburg will play softball at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.