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Toni Bender
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KHS soccer captain joins West Point Class of 2026

May 29, 2022 - 00:00
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  • KHS soccer captain joins West Point Class of 2026
    Xander Bolner
  • KHS soccer captain joins West Point Class of 2026
  • KHS soccer captain joins West Point Class of 2026
  • KHS soccer captain joins West Point Class of 2026
    [Soccer photo credit, above and Page 1: Chris Simon/www.simonsports-photos.]

“Word to the Nation: Guard zealously your right to serve in the Armed Forces, for without them, there will be no other rights to guard.”

– John F. Kennedy

On the path he has dreamt about since eighth grade, Xander Bolner will soon confront the “Beast.”

As he begins cadet basic training, otherwise known as “Beast,” at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Bolner will join an elite group comprising the class of 2026.

On the western bank of the Hudson River, 50 miles north of New York City, West Point is one of the oldest American service academies educating cadets for commissioning into the United States Army.

Out of the approximately 13,000 to 15,000 applicants each year, only about 1,200 are accepted.

Bolner said he was excited to be one of them.

“Since I was a young kid, I knew I wanted to be part of the military, but also obtain an education,” he said.

Exposed to military service most of his life, Bolner said he’s continuing in his parents’ footsteps as he begins his training this summer.

Bolner’s mother, Kristi Kelly-Bolner, served two years in the Navy and holds the rank of Petty Officer Third Class (E-4).

His father, Christopher Bolner, retired from the Army as Sergeant First Class (E-7) with 15 years of service.

A wounded warrior, he served in special forces as a Tabbed Ranger, was deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operations Desert Shield/ Desert Storm and earned the Bronze Star as well as other honors.

Spending the early years of his life in Kentucky, Bolner and his parents and sister, Kya, moved to Kingfisher when he was in the third grade to be near his mother’s family while his father was deployed, he said.

The lengthy process of applying for entrance to West Point includes providing high school transcripts, college entrance exam scores, a medical exam, a fitness assessment, written candidate statement, letters of nomination and an interview.

Unique to service academies, each candidate must receive a nomination, either congressional or service-connected, to be considered for acceptance.

Bolner’s application included both nominations – one from Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas (District 3) and another in conjunction with his father’s military service.

In his candidate application statement, Bolner said at the time he began to desire to attend a service academy, specifically West Point, his father had returned after being injured in combat in Afghanistan.

“I wish to attend the service academy because I want to be of service to my country, even if that means laying down life and blood, for the most significant sacrifice you can give to your country is that of death itself,” he said.

A 2022 graduate of Kingfisher High School, Bolner was involved in drama and a variety of sports such as basketball, wrestling, cross country and track, but said he especially developed a love for soccer and was a captain on the team.

Bolner traveled to Spain and England as a member of an International Soccer League team and was invited to travel to Australia with the track team, but the pandemic intervened on that adventure, he said.

Also experienced in leadership roles, Bolner said he participated in the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Cadet Lawman Academy and was a Boys State delegate.

“Quiet until he warms up,” KHS English and drama teacher T. J. Harris said of Bolner.

“Xander willingly contributes to class discussions and works well with others.

“He is good at quickly assessing and solving problems and equations, enjoys challenging work and pushes himself to be stronger, smarter and better at any physical or mental task that he sets his sights on.”

Accepted to play on the West Point soccer team and possibly the track team, Bolner plans to pursue a degree in life science/ pre-medicine at West Point, with the ultimate goal of becoming a veterinarian specializing in neurosurgery.

Upon completion of his studies and military training, Bolner will graduate with a bachelor’s degree and be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army.

Bolner identified his mom and girlfriend as his biggest supporters.

“They’ve always been there for me and I know my parents are proud…and probably a little scared.”

Excited to get started, Bolner said he feels prepared, but “probably won’t be” and knows there will be ups and downs.

“My interest in the academy is that I not only get a good education,” he added. “But I can serve my country to the best of my ability by being an officer coming out of one of the most outstanding schools on this earth.”