WEST POINT, N.Y. (March 24, 2011) -- Four exceptional high school girls and daughters of military parents not only achieve A's in their classes, but also excel in their individual sport.

From James I. O'Neill High School in Highland Falls, N.Y., freshman Alex Hartke, sophomore Darby Germain and junior Megan Clark, and junior Olivia Jebb from Cornwall Central High School, have the distinction of achieving recognition in the sports they've worked hard to perfect.

Megan is fourth in the country and state champion in pole vaulting; Olivia won Section 9 and state titles for the triple jump; Alex placed first in gymnastics at the Section 9 trials and Darby placed second in the Section 9 trials in gymnastics. All are hoping for--and being pursued with--scholarships to some of the best colleges around, including West Point.

"(My) mom got me involved in sports," Megan said. "Soccer didn't work out too well, but I did like track and field. I love pole vaulting because you're really in competition with yourself. If you are tied for first place, the bar goes up (and keeps going up as long as someone jumps over it.)"
Megan not only enjoys her sport, but she makes sure her grades are solid. She is a member of the National Honor Society at O'Neill High School.

"I have received offers from the Duke University coach for track and field and I'm looking at Virginia Tech and I am being recruited by West Point," she said. "I'm considering (West Point)."
Megan has a brother who is a West Point cadet, as do Alex and Olivia.

"It's shocking that Megan found a sport she has a talent for," Col. Ron Clark, Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic director, and Megan's dad, said. "We struggled trying to find just the right sport for her. But we encouraged her in whatever she tried. I can remember running around behind her with umbrellas because it always seemed to rain every time she had a meet."

Clark said getting A's is his daughter's primary focus in school.

"It gives you more options of being able to apply their talents," he said. "Her job is school. There's my kindergarten speech. School is your job."

Gymnastics seemed to come naturally to Alex.

"(My) mom put me in acrobatics (as a child)," Alex said. "I'm not sure what I like best in gymnastics, it depends on the day."

Alex said she enjoys competing and practicing.

"I enjoy the state meets the best because I know a lot more people there," she said. "I like to practice and work on becoming more consistent, to clean up my routines and to learn to trust myself more."

Alex is also hoping for a scholarship--maybe to Cornell.

"It's a lot to balance," Lisa Hartke, Alex's mom, said. "You have to be committed, you can't do other things and work and being good in gymnastics. The frustrating thing with this sport is that one day everything is fine and on another day, someone has broken something. In our house and in all of our houses, academics come first. There are a lot of issues to deal with."

Darby became interested in gymnastics simply because two of her friends were involved in it--and it looked like fun.

"I think I like the bars the best," Darby said. "But like Alex said, it depends on the day."
Darby enjoys competition and is also hoping for a scholarship to a school with a good gymnastics program and like the others, practices to help her improve.

"I like to polish all my routines," she said. "As far as colleges, I'm still looking, but Brown is on my list."

"Darby's the oldest of four so a lot of things revolve around Darby's gymnastics and school," Kate Germain, Darby's mom, said.

Germain said juggling schedules becomes a fine balance among academics, sports and Family.

"Darby wanted to go to the gym so bad last night, but when she got into the car she said she couldn't go to the gym to practice because she had this paper and this test and that test," Germain said. "So I think this is a good example of how academics had to come first over gym, even though they practice to improve or fix something they messed up on or to get a little bit better on."

Olivia got into track and field on a field trip even though volleyball is another sport she excels at. She was all-state and an outstanding player in high school.

"I like the state meets the best, because of all the adrenaline," Olivia said. "Right now I'm also hoping for a scholarship and looking at William and Mary, Harvard and West Point."

Although Olivia's sport is track and field now, she wouldn't mind being recruited for volleyball.

"Olivia started out in several different sports and we finally went to one or two based on her passion," Col. Cindy Jebb, Acting Department Head of Social Science, said. "I think that what we really support is the fact that she loves both volleyball and track, and I think they are complimentary."

"There is that balance with academics, but she's very driven," Jebb said. "Olivia's choice was to go after the triple jump rather than the long jump in the Nationals, because of academics. That was her choice."

Of course the girls are now focusing on their academics, sports and college prospects, but off on the horizon somewhere is that glint of hope they all expressed--making it to the Olympics.