Called to Serve

Caroline Vincent and American Legion Post 283 Adjutant Kevin Niles at Palisades High’s Senior Awards banquet in May.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

Tennis Player Caroline Vincent Becomes First Palisades High Girl to Attend West Point

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

Tennis has been a huge part of Caroline Vincent’s life since she was a young girl and the sport will be part of her future, but she surprised even her own family in the spring by deciding to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point—the first girl from Palisades High ever to do so.    

“My decision came as a shock to a lot of my family and friends,” Vincent admitted. “Nobody in my family has ever attended a military academy and it was not something I’d considered before last year. I was recruited by a lot of the top colleges in the country for tennis and when West Point’s coach first approached me during a national tournament last summer, I knew almost nothing about it. I was hesitant to meet with him because I wasn’t sure I’d be interested, but he flew out to Los Angeles for a visit to meet with my parents and I and persuaded me to take an official visit. I was impressed by everything West Point has to offer.”

As a sophomore, Vincent led the Pali High tennis team to its third straight City Section championship and also captured the City individual singles crown, but spent her junior and senior years sharpening her skills at Advantage Tennis Academy in Irvine.

“My decision to participate in Pali’s virtual academy program was a difficult one,” Vincent said. “It was particularly hard to leave the tennis team since we’d just won City and Coach Bud Kling had asked me to return as team captain. However, I felt that the opportunity to play four to five hours a day with players from all over the world was the best way for me to prepare for Division I college tennis. Leaving my regular classes, friends and team was hard but in retrospect I was able to make major improvements in both my tennis and physical conditioning while, at the same time, continuing to take AP and other courses remotely and to maintain the requisite GPA to qualify for admission at top schools.”

Vincent seriously considered following in the foosteps of her sister Katie (who graduated from BYU with a degree in neuroscience in the spring) and her brother Derek, a BYU student currently fulfilling a two-year Mormon mission in Chile.        

“I was excited about the prospect of playing Pac-12 tennis at Cal and many in my family were rooting for BYU since my sister and brother both went there,” Vincent said. “Both of those schools were great options for different reasons, but I chose West Point out of a desire to serve my country, to receive a highly-respected education, to compete in Division I college tennis and to build my character and skills in ways that wouldn’t be possible nearly anywhere else. I believe graduating from West Point as a female officer in the U.S. Army will provide many opportunities in the future.”   

Vincent graduated with honnors as a sealbearer and applied for and received an American Legion Scholarship, presented to her at Pali High’s Senior Awards Banquet in May. In her essay, she talked about blood relatives that have served in the military. Her great grandfather Golden Scott enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941 and was stationed at Randolph Field, Texas. He was later transferred to Iceland where he flew a B-17 and served until the end of World War II. Her uncle Ron Scott enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam war and served 22 years before retiring as a Lt. Colonel at Fort Lewis, Washington. When he arrived home from Desert Storm he was greeted by his five children and his wife, nine months pregnant with their sixth child. The oldest, Caorline’s cousin Jesse, served in the Marines for four years. Her grandfather J. Garr Vincent served in the U.S. Coast Guard for two years and the Army reserves for eight years.

On Tuesday, Vincent reported to West Point to begin her six weeks of basic training, upon which she’ll officially be accepted into the Corps of Cadets and begin her military journey.

“After the academy I plan on continuing my minimum five years of service to my country in the Cyber Defense branch of the U.S. Army,” said Vincent, who grew up in the Highlands, won numerous USTA junior tournaments while a student at Calvary Christian School and graduated from  Pali High with a 4.2 GPA. “I know West Point isn’t a traditional college experience or a common path but I was still surprised when college center counselor Ruth Grubb told me I’m the first female from Pali to attend West Point.”

Vincent not only relishes the career opportunity the Army offers, but also the chance to keep playing the game she loves.   

“I’ve always considered myself relatively athletic and tough so I guess we’re going to find out how tough I really am,” she said. “I’m excited about playing Division I for a team that last year won its conference and competed in the NCAA tournament and, of course, beat Navy! I’ve already attended matches and really like the teammates I’ve met. Coach [Paul] Peck was a major influence in my decision to attend West Point. He’s known for being a great mentor to his players both on and off the court and is an extremely kind and caring person. I hope to play in the starting lineup in both singles and doubles and be a major contributor.”

Although females were not eligible to attend until 1978 and have made up only about 25 percent of the class in recent years, West Point offers qualified women numerous avenues. Before she could submit her application, Vincent had to pass certain physical requirements, interview with a panel of military officers and secure a Congressional nomination, which she got from Congressman Ted Lieu. While excited to get started, Vincent warned that her path is not for everyone.

“West Point is a truly amazing opportunity for the right kind of person but if your priority is to have a traditional college experience, it’s not the right place,” she said. “However, if you’re interested in a less traditional path involving rigorous leadership, character and academic training, if you want to serve your country and are open to crazy experiences like throwing live grenades or jumping out of helicopters, then go for it!”