|JROTC student accepts appointment to West Point - By JROTC Blue Devil Public Affairs
Walla Walla High School Senior Madeline Erikson officially accepted her appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point by signing her National Letter of Intent to compete on their NCAA Rifle Team Tuesday in the Fletcher Memorial Room at Walla Walla High School. Flanked by family, friends and teammates, Erikson became the second rifle athlete to sign with West Point in two years. Erikson’s path to West Point’s Division I Rifle Team began when she was a freshman, enrolling in the JROTC Rifle Marksmanship class. Over the past five years, there have been eight service academy appointments, six rifle team and two non-rifle team, from Wa-Hi’s JROTC program.
“I took Rifle Marksmanship as an elective” said Erikson. “I hunt and shoot with my dad, so I thought it would be a good way to improve my accuracy. I never really thought of it as a varsity sport.”
Erikson, who also played softball and basketball found however that competitive indoor rifle marksmanship was a sport that combined both her athletic and cognitive abilities.
“It took a lot of work to make the team.” Erikson said. “I only shot for fun at first, but by the end of my freshman year, Sergeant Mebes noticed that my scores were improving, so I was allowed to come back as a sophomore and take the advanced class. That was when I started shooting competitively.”
By Erikson’s junior year, she held the position of squad leader in the JROTC program at the rank of cadet staff sergeant so she could help instruct new cadets in the sport. That year was also her first appearance at a national championship match.
“I traveled with the team to the Army National Match at Camp Perry, Ohio in February during Winter Storm Neptune,” Erikson said. “It was 20 degrees below zero and blowing clouds of ice crystals. I’ll never forget that trip.”
Erikson’s performance at Army Nationals solidified her place on the highly competitive sporter class team and in April she traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah for the CMP Western Regional Championship.
“On the second day of the match, Madeline’s rear sight on her rifle broke while she was in the middle of her kneeling set,” said Wa-Hi Rifle Coach Mark Mebes “I saw the ball bearing go skipping across the floor. She just smiled, shrugged and started adjusting her point of aim based on her last shot. She still walked away with a score over 500. It takes real mental toughness to recover from an equipment failure like that and not let it ruin your score. That was when I decided to move her up to the precision team.”
Moving from sporter class to Olympic-Style shooting at the end of her junior year, Erikson decided she wanted to try to work her way onto an NCAA team. With only a year to gain the notice of a college coach, she realized it would be an uphill battle. She approached her coach and told him she wanted to shoot at West Point.
“I shot as much as I could last summer, including attending a marksmanship camp in Lebanon, Oregon.” Erikson said “I also began to contact college coaches.”
By December, several coaches had responded and the University of Texas El Paso even flew her down for an official NCAA visit.
“I really had my heart set on West Point though.” Madeline said. “The cadet recruitment process there takes a little longer than other NCAA schools, but I wanted to know where I stood there before I accepted an offer to go somewhere else.”
In February, Madeline traveled with the rest of her team to the JROTC National Championship in Anniston, Alabama. Unknown to her, the West Point Rifle Coach Web Wright III was in the audience.
“After the match was over he sat down and talked with me. He said he was very pleased with my scores both days, particularly in prone. I had fired a 400 out of 400 and I am glad he saw me do that, because I had worked pretty hard at it. I didn’t accept a single shot that wasn’t perfect.”
A week later, while at practice in the rifle range at Wa-Hi, Madeline received a phone call from Coach Wright.
“I answered my phone and the whole team was standing there watching me,” said Erikson. “When he told me that West Point was recruiting me I gave them a thumb’s up. Everyone was hugging me while I was still on the phone with him. It was one of the best moments of my life.”
Erikson will report for Basic Cadet Training June 27 and begin classes in August at the academy. She joins former Wa-Hi team captain Nathan Brewer who just finished his freshman (Plebe) year shooting for the Black Knights.