MANHATTAN — Two weeks ago the phone call that Alexa Arthun had been waiting for finally arrived.
On the other end of the line was U.S. Senator Steve Daines, who congratulated the Manhattan High senior on her offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“Alexa has proven to be a tremendous leader and an exemplary student inside and outside of the classroom,” Daines stated in a press release. “I have no doubt she will be an asset to the Air Force.”
Arthun admitted the application process was “a little nerve-racking,” and her acceptance is still sinking in. She’ll compete in the divisional and state track meets for Manhattan’s track team over the next two weekends, graduate from high school on June 4, and then report to the Air Force Academy on June 25.
“Very excited, but also really nervous,” Arthun said Monday morning after signing her commitment letter. “It’s definitely quite the commitment. “I only have three weeks of summer and then I have to go and start basic training. But I’m really excited too because it’s going to be an awesome experience that not a lot of people get to experience.”
Arthun competed in basketball and football (as a freshman) during her prep career, but it’s in track and field where she’s really left her mark. It was after opting to compete in indoor track, rather than basketball, this past winter that a decision on where to compete in college track finally came into view.
She competed in a meet at the Air Force Academy in February, and the experience left a big impression.
“I walked on campus and I was like this is awesome. I right away knew that that’s where I wanted to go,” Arthun said. “So ever since then I was just hoping and praying, ‘Please, please let me get it.’”
Arthun looked at several other programs, including Montana State University, the Naval Academy, and Oral Roberts University — where he parents attended college and competed on the track team.
“But something just didn’t feel complete. Something was missing,” said Arthun. “So then I kind of started the (Air Force) application process. Why not, might as well. The more I looked into and started applying, the more I just feel in love with it. This seems like the right thing to do.”
Arthun currently holds three school records — in the 300 hurdles, long jump and pole vault — and is the defending state champion in the 100 hurdles and pole vault. She’s already pre-qualified for the state meet in half a dozen individual events and hopes to compete in the heptathlon while at Air Force.
“We’ll see because that takes a lot of time and a lot of extra training because you’re competing in so many different events,” said Arthun. “The first couple of years I’m going to focus mainly on academics just to get my head afloat and of course train hard. Hopefully later on I can be more successful.”
Before that, there’s still two prep meets remaining. Arthun will compete in the Southern B Divisional Thursday in Laurel, and then in the two-day State B Meet May 26-27 in Butte.
It could be a little rough, however, as Arthun is battling a high ankle sprain and did not compete on the second day of the District 5B Meet on May 13.
“It’s been a little frustrating with the whole injury thing. We’ve gone to sports therapists, we’ve gone to ankle doctors trying to figure out what’s going on,” she said. “We’re tying a new technique this week to see if it will heal up, but I feel like if we get some pretty good pain killers in there I can muscle through it.”
The goal at state, of course, is to defend her state championships and compete in all of her events. Arthun would also like to set a couple of new state marks, specifically in the long jump and pole vault.
Earlier this year, she leaped 18-feet, 2-inches, which would have eclipsed the Class B state record (state records may only be set at a state meet), and cleared 11-feet in the pole vault. The Class B pole vault record is 11-feet, 3-inches.
“If it comes down to it, and I can’t do all my seven or five events at state, then I just do the ones I have a chance at breaking the B records in,” Arthun said. “So it will probably just boil down to that now. I’m confident that I’ll be healed enough to compete.”
Arthun, who boasts a 4.02 GPA, plans to study pre-med and biology.
“I’m going to miss it, that’s for sure, the small town. The small town feel and stuff,” Arthun said of leaving Manhattan. “Which is kind of a little bit why I chose Air Force because I did get accepted to the prep academy at Navy (too), but I went on a visit down there and I was like I don’t know if I can adjust to this east coast life. It’s really impacted me being so close in a close-knit community. It means a lot to have so many supporters.”