The process to get into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is rigorous. There are a number of essays that need to be completed; physical tests that include sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, a shuttle run and a mile run; and receiving a Congressional nomination.
Before any of that starts, potential applicants can apply for a trip to the campus on the banks of the Hudson in the spring of their junior year of high school for a week of SLE (Student Leadership Experience). Essentially, it is a week of learning what it would be like to be a student at West Point.
If King Philip senior Renee Poirier had any doubts about her desire to go to West Point, the week she spent on campus dispelled all of it.
“This is it, I was so excited. I loved every second of it,” said Poirier, while sitting at a picnic table at the Plainville Athletic League (PAL) complex shortly after she went 2-for-3 with an RBI during an 8-0 win for the Warriors over Oliver Ames.
She laughed and shook her head when asked if there had been any backup schools, just in case.
“That was where I wanted to go right from the start,” Poirier explained. “I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else.”
There was no prior family connection to West Point. The only relative that she mentioned who had been in the military was her grandfather and that was in the Air Force. Even without that connection, Poirier said that it had been a dream since middle school to be a cadet.
It was a dream that became reality in January, when she received notice that she had been accepted.
“It didn’t feel real at all,” laughed Poirier as she recalled her reaction to receiving the notice in the mail. “I was running around my house, crying, because it was such a big relief knowing that it all paid off. I have the letter; no one can take it away from me.”
She continued, “I’m beyond proud to say that I’m going there.”
The dream became perfect last year when the Army softball team began recruiting Poirier to join its program. She was going to be able to combine her two main goals: to attend West Point and to play Div. I college softball.
“It was the dream combination. I got to meet the team and they’re awesome and I met the coaches and they’re great,” said Poirier.
Included in the coaching staff at Army is former two-time Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year Nicole D’Argento of Ashland, who set a number of records as a pitcher at Boston College.
“I fell in love with softball because of the team aspect and I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself even past college,” responded Poirier when asked what it was about West Point that drew her in.
She added, “When I visited and saw the camaraderie o0f everyone there and it was really special and I thought that I want to be part of this.”
Poirier leaves on June 29 for boot camp, an experience that she will be sharing with her new college teammates. “They have a bond that no other college team has,” she said, “because they’ve experienced something that no one else has and supported each other through that.”
Before she heads to West Point, Poirier and the Warriors have unfinished business to take care of in the Hockomock League and in the state. KP won the 2010 and 2011 state titles and reached the South final in 2012, but was knocked out by eventual state champion Milford in the second round in 2013 (Poirier, as a sophomore, pitched a gem in the first round) and last year was beaten by Weymouth in the first round.
There is plenty of talent on the KP roster every year, but Poirier believes that the team needed to change its mindset coming into the season to be successful and get back to the top level.
“We knew we were talented, but we were too far ahead of ourselves,” said Poirier in a search for an explanation. “Keeping ourselves to such a high standard and being disappointed so easily like after one strikeout letting ourselves deflate… this year we’re focusing more on taking it one game at a time.”
Over April vacation, the Warriors dropped a pair of games -- both with Poirier missing from the heart of the lineup. The senior captain was in a very different competition. She was in Atlanta at a DECA conference to present the project, “Hope for Henry.”
The project raised more than $13,000 during this school year in honor of Henry Carr, who worked on the project with her. Carr broke his leg last year and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, but despite 12 months of intense chemotherapy stayed at the school, continued to participate in clubs and inspired KP students. The project finished 10th in the DECA competition, but, more importantly, provided a sizeable donation to The Jimmy Fund.
“The reward that Henry and I felt from the rest of the community…everyone was so supportive and receptive of our project,” said Poirier.
That type of commitment will serve her well as she embarks on life at West Point and, according to KP coach Norm Beauchemin, is also a catalyst for the rest of the Warriors. He said, “You can tell that the kids look up to her. She doesn’t have to yell at anyone but when she speaks the kids listen.”
When asked what it takes to be a good leader for the Warriors, Poirier said, “it’s really about bringing everyone together for that one goal. I got that from West Point too.”
She continued, “My approach was making sure that everyone on the team knows that they’re important and have a job, even if you’re not starting. Once everyone feels important and that they can contribute then everyone is more willing to sacrifice for the team.”
Everyone talks about West Point now; she is always answering questions about college. While it has not diminished her excitement and her pride at the achievement of soon being a cadet, Poirier is enjoying her time as a Warrior too and does not want that to end too soon.
“This team is so close this year,” she said, “and we all care so much about our success and each other. It’s just a great atmosphere to be around this year. Every game we have fun, we work hard, do our best to win and I don’t want it to end early.”