Out of all those students, there is just one competing in five sports, on pace to become class valedictorian, and the JROTC female National Ultimate Raider two years running.
Adairsville student-athlete Emily Sexauer is truly one of a kind and has managed to find time to excel in the classroom, on the athletic field, and on a two-mile run through the woods and muddy conditions while carrying a 35-pound rucksack.
“Emily is a model student-athlete,” Adairsville Athletic Director Meredith Barnhill says. “I wish we had a school building full of Emilys. She works hard. She is respectful of her classmates and her teachers. She is an example that if you work hard and do the right thing, good things will come your way.”
The junior competes for the Tigers in cross country, track, volleyball, basketball and soccer, and has accumulated several accomplishments while at Adairsville High.
Sexauer has won the region title in cross country all three seasons and is the reigning Region 5-AAA champ at the two-mile distance in track. She also excels on the soccer field where she has made The Daily Tribune News All-County Team each of her three years while leading the Tigers to the state playoffs this past season.
As a sophomore midfielder, Sexauer had four goals and two assists on the season, but her impact extends beyond the statistics.
“Emily is the engine of the Adairsville Lady Tigers soccer,” Assistant soccer coach Lance Hall said after the season. “As the match goes on, the faster Emily gets. She was able to shut down the other teams’ midfield.”
For many, one sport is enough, but to Sexauer, competing in five sports is par for the course.
“You get in shape pretty quickly. I guess I never get out of shape because I play sports year round,” Sexauer says. “I joined cross country when I was in sixth grade, so I was just always good at it. And then basketball is my winter sport, soccer was my spring sport, and because I was good at cross country, I got involved in track. And volleyball is just fun. I just do it because its fun and I love to play.”
With all the time committed to athletics, Sexauer still finds a way to excel in academics. Entering her junior year, she had the highest grade point average in her class. She currently sits at a 3.97 GPA while taking seven courses, including four advanced placement and two honors classes.
Competing in five sports takes considerable time management skills in itself. To excel academically while playing five sports takes immense discipline.
“You have to learn to work efficiently. I make a to-do list before I start my homework every time. Instead of taking a break and watching TV, I try to get ahead in my other classes,” Sexauer says. “The cellphone, it’s sitting right there. People will text me and I’m like, ‘I have homework. I can’t talk right now.’ If I don’t do it then I have no chance, because when I get home, I only have so many hours.
“I have to stay focused or my grades will drop, and that’s not an option.”
On a given October day, Sexauer accomplishes what most student-athletes manage in a week. In the fall sports season, she participated in morning runs twice per week with her JROTC team and practiced with the squad after school on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays she practiced with the cross country team from 4 to 5 p.m., and then with the volleyball team from 5 to 6. She then goes home and partakes in the requisite amount of studying to maintain her lofty GPA.
“I have my dinner here and my homework here, and I’m sitting and I’m writing and I’m reading and I’m always busy and then I go to bed,” she says.
“She’s just a kid that likes to be busy. She is successful. It’s just the nature of her personality,” Barnhill says. “She’s going to do things and she’s going to do them well. She’s the national junior cadet for JROTC. That’s a huge accomplishment. That’s something she’s very successful at it. She’s a really good cross country runner. Competing in things like volleyball and basketball, where she hasn’t had as much success in those sports as she has in others, it just makes her much more well-rounded.”
Sexauer’s release from the hectic schedule is what some coaches use a punishment — more running.
“Running is my favorite thing ever, so having cross country practice after school is my break,” she says. “Everyone is like, ‘Running stinks,’ and I’m like, ‘Yes! Running!’”
Sexauer has the talent to match her passion for running and has finished in the top 20 of AAA at the GHSA state cross country meets the last two seasons. She finished 18th in the state this year with a time of 21:10.85.
Sexauer’s discipline is a direct reflection of her family’s military background. Maj. David Sexauer, Emily’s father, is the JROTC commander at Adairsville and established the program in the fall of 2005. Emily’s three older siblings — Amy, Jessica and Ryan — all are attending or have graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
As a result, Emily has plenty of role models and a lot to live up to in the Sexauer household. Emily’s oldest sister, Amy, is a member of a female special forces unit in the Army.
“My oldest sister is in like a special forces for women and that interests me because it’s cool,” Emily says. “It’s a new thing and she was in one of the first groups. She worked with Navy SEALS and Rangers, so it’s select and it’s top secret.”
Meanwhile, Jessica Sexauer helped lead her West Point rugby team to the Emirates Airlines USA Rugby Women’s Division I National Championship in 2011 and the USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championship. That same year, she was named the Women’s Collegiate Player of the Year by Rugby Magazine.
Emily has excelled at running whether it be in cross country, track or soccer. However, she is not running from following in her sibling’s footsteps. Instead, she is strongly considering attending West Point and possibly competing in rugby like Jessica.
“My plan right now is to go to West Point and major in math and do career military, and I’m not exactly sure what I want to do in the military,” Emily says. “After I retire, I want to become a math teacher at a high school.”
With a family as accomplished as Emily’s, there is a certain level of expectation and pressure inherent in being the youngest sibling. The shadow of the lofty expectations of the Sexauer legacy has been cast on Emily and she is emerging with flying colors.
“When I was a freshman, I was really worried I wouldn’t live up to standards Jessie had set. She played five sports in high school and had great grades and everybody loved her. All the teachers loved her. I was like, ‘I’m not going to be as good as Jessie,’ but I think I’m doing pretty well,” Emily says. “I play five sports, so I got her there. My goal is to, at the very least, be fifth in my class because all three of my siblings were sixth in their class.”
One commonality in sports that is not common in the Sexauer family is the risk of injury. In a military family like Emily’s, toughness and resiliency are a must.
“I don’t really get hurt,” Sexauer says. “In my family, we joke around, ‘You only get hurt if you’re uncoordinated.’ None of my family got hurt. We all played sports, so we’re pretty tough I guess.”
With the Sexauers’ military and athletic background, it should come as no surprise that Emily has excelled as a member of the Adairsville High School JROTC Raiders. The Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is a program sponsored by the United States Armed Forces in high schools across the United States. The Raiders competed in five events in the fall, culminating in Adairsville’s first-ever Raider National Championship, held in Molena on Nov. 2 and 3.
Sexauer was named the JROTC female National Ultimate Raider for the second consecutive year. The Ultimate Raider event includes, according to the U.S. Army National Raiders Championships standard operating procedure, a roughly 1.75-mile run. The event features a 3/4-mile road run followed by a one-mile run through the woods on uneven terrain with numerous obstacles, including water, inclines, low crawls, 42-inch vaults, as well as other obstacles. The competition ends with each participant scaling a six-foot wall. According to Sexauer, a 35-pound rucksack must be carried for half of the run.
To top it off, the Ultimate Raider competition takes place the day after the grueling five-event team competition.
For most teenagers, such an challenge would seem to be a cruel punishment on a weekend designated for relaxing, watching television and hanging out with friends.
However, Sexauer would not want to be doing anything else.
“I like that it’s really difficult. It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, and I play five sports and I’ve done a lot of things, and I like that when we are out there and it’s like, ‘You can do it.’ When we’re out there and you have a 35-pound rucksack on your back and you’re going up a giant hill, you and nine other girls are struggling, and you’re like, ‘Let’s go get trophies!’ I mean, I like it because its rewarding,” Sexauer says. “It’s really hard when you’re competing, but when you’re done, you feel like you accomplished so much.
“I’m so proud of myself and the whole team feels proud. We’re always like, ‘Guys we did it; we worked so hard.’ That feeling of accomplishment, you don’t get from any other sport.”
The JROTC Raider events may be more of a challenge than any sport, but it is Sexauer’s affinity for challenge that allows her to excel at the sports she participates in.
“I like the challenges. That’s why I do a lot. I think what I’m most proud of is that I can do it all at a high level,” she says. “I play basketball and it’s not my favorite sport, and I don’t play a lot, but it keeps me in shape. It’s something I’m not very good at and I’m getting better. I don’t know. I just like to stay busy.”