Wa-Hi Rifle Team member Allison Juergensen has signed to attend and shoot at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla High School senior Allison Juergensen signed her letter of intent to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy as a member of the NCAA Division I Rifle Team in Wa-Hi’s Fletcher room on Thursday.
Her parents, Stephen and Heather Juergensen, family, friends and teammates were present.
Wa-Hi coach Mark Mebes said she received her official offer just minutes after firing her last shots at the US Army Junior Air Rifle National Championship at Fort Benning, Ga., on Feb. 26.
“We had just finished loading our gear and the team all piled into the car when Allie said, ‘I just got an email.’ A few seconds later she said, ‘I have just been accepted at the Air Force Academy.’ The car just erupted in cheers. I had to pull over so everyone could get out and hug her. It was a very emotional moment.”
Juergensen said the signing was the culmination of four years of work.
“When I was in eighth grade, my family took a trip to Colorado Springs and my dad decided to stop so we could see the Air Force Academy,” she said. “It was so impressive. My dad is a pastor and we stood together in the huge chapel looking up at the ceiling beams that form the shape of a jet. That’s when I made up my mind I wanted to go to college there.”
The US Air Force Academy receives about 10,000 applicants a year, but accepts less than 1,000 cadets for entry.
Applicants must be in the very top percentage of their high school graduating class, be of impeccable character, pass a physical and receive a nomination from a congressman or senator to be considered for entry.
Juergensen received her nomination from Congressional Representative Cathy McMorris-Rogers last December after an interview with other prospective applicants from Washington state.
“That was tough,” Juergensen said. “I had just finished shooting an NRA Regional rifle match in Spokane with my team. I fired my last shot, handed my rifle to one of my teammates and ran to get changed for the interview. Thirty minutes later I was sitting in front of the board answering questions. I honestly wasn’t sure how I did.”
Juergensen received word that she had garnered a nomination on Christmas Eve, and after passing a health exam and a candidate fitness assessment, her application went before a review panel at the academy.
In each step of the process, candidates are weeded out.
“I have been shooting competitive rifle since my freshman year,” Juergensen said. “Last season I shot well enough in a couple of national matches that I was able to get the attention of several NCAA college coaches. I really had my mind made up to go to the Academy, though.”
As Juergensen’s shooting career progressed, she also entertained an offer from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to shoot on their rifle team.
“Deciding between the two schools is probably the hardest decision I have had to make,” she said. “In the end, I think it came down to the coach. I was just so impressed with (Air Force Academy) coach (Launi) Meili.”
Juergensen reports to the US Air Force Academy on June 26 for basic training.
After that, she will enter the academy and begin training with their No. 8-ranked Division 1 NCAA rifle team.