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Two FHS graduates are headed to service academies

It’s going to be a short summer break for Kylie Wharton and Justin Hyytinen.

The two Farmington High School seniors will receive their diplomas Friday night, then have less than a month to relax before getting to work on the next stage of their lives.

Emphasis, presumably, on the work.

Wharton and Hyytinen are both among the tiny percentage of high school graduates headed to a United States Military Academy next year. Wharton will attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Hyytinen is headed to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

For both, it will be a chance to pursue personal passions while also serving their country. Wharton has long had an interest in aviation, and she would like to be a pilot. Hyytinen, a standout cross country runner and a state entrant in three events for the Farmington track team this week, will run at the Naval Academy.

The Academy was actually the first Division I school to send Hyytinen a recruiting letter his sophomore year. More letters followed, and Hyytinen actually accepted a scholarship at the University of Minnesota before changing his mind. Attending the Naval Academy will allow him to be a student, an athlete and a sailor all at once, he said. Doing all three at a traditional university would have been difficult.

“I didn’t want to leave out the running part, but I didn’t want to leave out the service,” he said.

Just getting into a service academy is a big job. Because he was recruited as an athlete Hyytinen had a leg up on some of the other applicants. But he still had to go through the process, which involved filling out an application just to get the official application. There were essays to write, and recommendations from teachers to collect. Every applicant to a service academy also has to get a recommendation from a member of congress. That meant more applications, and an interview with a panel of judges.

Then there was the physical. Wharton said she trained four a couple of months for a test that included push ups, sit ups, pull ups and a mile-and-a-half run.

Both had to get medical waivers because of pre-existing injuries — Wharton to her knee and Hyytinen to his back.

Wharton and Hyytinen leaned on each other throughout.

“It was actually really cool to have someone else going through the same process,” Wharton said.

Once they’ve got their diplomas, things will start moving quickly. Wharton will report to Colorado Springs on June 25 for basic cadet training. Hyytinen is due July 1 for what the Navy calls Plebe Summer.

There are still some nerves, but both are confident in their decisions.

“It’s a big commitment, but it’s going to be worth it,” Wharton said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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