Trio of Richland County seniors nominated for service academies | #vacation | #seniors | #elderly
Joanna Halfhill, Tucker Schurig and Caden Brubaker are the best of the best.
U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson recently announced they would be among the Ohio 12th Congressional District’s service academy nominations for the Class of 2025, representing Richland County.
Halfhill and Schurig attend Lexington, while Brubaker is a senior at St. Peter’s.
Before earning an appointment to a U.S. service academy, students must be nominated by their congressman, senator or the nation’s vice president.
An ad hoc panel, consisting of current and former military leaders, as well as community leaders, assisted Balderson with screening candidates and conducting interviews.
During the competitive nomination and appointment process, students were evaluated on their academic records, athletic achievements and leadership qualities.
A congressional nomination does not guarantee acceptance to a service academy. Cadets and midshipmen commit to serving at least five years in their respective military branch upon graduation.
Standout academic and athletic career
Halfhill might be best known for being part of four state championship cross country teams at Lexington, which has established a dynasty under coach Denise Benson.
She has been nominated for three service academies. Halfhill chose and was accepted at West Point.
The daughter of Joel and Jill Halfhill has been interested in enlisting since her freshman year. At that age, she admits she had never heard of the service academies.
“Mia Sgambellone came into my history class and talked about her experience in the Army,” Halfhill said. “It looked cool. I like the structure. They push you to be better.”
During her junior year, Halfhill heard from an assistant cross country/track coach at West Point, furthering her interest.
Halfhill won’t have much free time at West Point. She plans to run indoor and outdoor track and cross country.
She doesn’t have to choose a major until the end of her freshman year or the beginning of her sophomore year. Halfhill is interested in engineering.
It’s that kind of dedication that recently earned Halfhill a prestigious Franklin B. Walter All-Scholastic Award.
Established by the Ohio Superintendent’s Educational Service Center Association to promote student achievement and recognize outstanding students, the award is given to only one senior from each county.
Halfhill credits her education at Lexington.
“Our teachers are really great,” she said. “It’s kind of sad that high school is just college prep now (at many places). At Lexington, the teachers give you a high school experience that everyone wants to have.”
Schurig has been nominated for the U.S. Naval Academy. If he is selected, he plans to try out for an even more select unit, the Navy SEALs.
The U.S. Navy Sea, Air and Land Teams, commonly known as Navy SEALs, are the Navy’s primary special operations force and a component of the Naval Special Warfare Command.
“They’re the best fighting force in the world,” Schurig said. “They defend freedom for others around the world. I really admire that.”
Schurig, the son of Todd and Nancy, said he decided at age 13 that he wanted to join the Navy. A visit to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, cemented his decision.
“I’m very pleased and proud,” he said of Balderson’s nomination. “I’m proud to represent the 12th District. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Schurig sounds like a patriot.
“I’ve always had an admiration for our country’s values,” he said. “I want to serve our country.”
If he is accepted, Schurig won’t have much of a summer vacation. He will have to leave home in June.
“For the opportunity, that’s absolutely worth it,” he said.
In addition to being a member of the National Honor Society, Schurig has been a member of the swim, cross country and track teams at Lexington.
He said he is running track this spring to stay in shape.
Like Halfhill, he credits the school district for preparing him for success.
“It’s done a great deal,” Schurig said. “There are lots of great teachers and good role models. I think this high school provides a lot of opportunities for kids.”
Like Schurig, Brubaker has been nominated for the Navy. In addition to Balderson, he has received a nomination from U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.
He and Schurig have talked in the last couple of weeks about possibly being in the Navy together. They were co-workers at Snow Trails.
Brubaker’s family has a history of military service. His grandfather was a Marine, and his great-grandfather served in the Navy during World War II.
The St. Peter’s senior was inspired to join the Navy by the son of his track coach. Brubaker visited the Naval Academy and said “it was the only place I could see myself going.”
He said he hopes to be a surface warfare officer, a submarine officer or a pilot. He initially wanted to be be a police officer like his father Chad, a lieutenant for the Mansfield Police Department. His mother is Christa.
Brubaker has held a number of leadership position at St. Peter’s. He is president of the Math Club, as well as the vice president of the National Honor Society, the senior class and the Key Club.
“St. Peter’s has a very strong focus on community service,” Brubaker said. “They really try to develop you morally.”
He has participated in Shop with a Cop, as well as Just Treats and Suites, a sensory trick-or-treat program for kids with special need.
Brubaker and his twin sister Cara are vying to be valedictorian of their class. He loves calculus and history, especially military history.
Brubaker sported a Navy pin on his blue blazer for school during an interview with the News Journal. While he’s a strong candidate for the Navy, Brubaker already has been accepted into the Naval ROTC unit at Ohio State.