With a stroke of the pen, Lakeside High School’s Erin Payne committed not only to run cross country and track for a college, but for her country.
In front of her family, friends and teammates, Payne signed to the U.S. Naval Academy on Tuesday afternoon.
Payne said it was a long process, but once she visited Annapolis after her junior year, she knew it was the place for her.
“I went to the summer seminar and fell in love with the atmosphere,” she said. “It felt like instant family.”
Much like her older sister, Evelyn, Payne didn’t have just one chance to enter a military academy. She also had the option to go to West Point.
Unlike her sister, she chose to become a midshipman rather than a cadet.
She said her sister was her main influence and that she looked up to her. That didn’t stop her from a little trash-talking, however.
“We’ll be beating her in football each year,” she said.
“I feel very proud,” said Payne’s mother Marvalisa. “I feel fortunate to have kids like that who are willing to sacrifice and see the bigger picture.”
While at the academy, Payne plans to study biology en route to becoming a Navy nurse or doctor.
At the signing was retired Navy Capt. J.C. Williams, who interviewed Payne before she was accepted.
“She’s a hard-charger who doesn’t make a lot of noise and gets the job done,” he said. “I was very impressed with her.”
Jerry Meitin, who has coached Payne in cross country for two seasons after she transferred from Greenbrier, made her a team captain this past cross country season.
“She had a command presence about her already,” Meitin said.
“I’m a little nervous, but I adapt really quickly,” Payne said of heading into her first year at Annapolis.