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Seems The Naval Academy Will Fit Cumberland’s Susanna Henderson Like A Glove

Two weeks ago, Henderson received a nomination and an appointment to the United States Naval Academy.

Susanna Henderson

Cross-country runners like Cumberland High senior Susanna Henderson are always on the move. She’s also a fine example of what can happen when locking coordinates in pursuing not just any old goal, but THE goal.

Two weeks ago, Henderson received a nomination and an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. She accepted immediately, solidifying her spot as a Midshipmen, Class of 2027.

THE goal, one that featured a detailed process that unfolded over months – six to be exact – was achieved.

“There were a lot of emotions. I’m not going to lie. I cried all day,” Henderson said on a recent weekday after completing a workout with her Cumberland teammates.


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With important guideposts in the form of family and friends with military backgrounds, Henderson was aware of the road she needed to travel with the hope of receiving the coveted appointment that would test her mind, body, and spirit.

Her father Nathan spent 26 years in the Marines – he retired this past summer – while her older sister Ella is currently enrolled in Naval ROTC as a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Susanna also counts close friends of the Henderson family who are involved with the Air Force Academy. Still, Henderson didn’t set out to fulfill a family prophecy based solely on the significant impressions that served as firm reminders of military life.

“Having all those people around me … they’ve always been supportive and not forcing it. They made sure it was an option which was helpful,” Henderson said.




That option turned into something more concrete last March after Henderson was extended an invite to candidate visitation weekend on the Annapolis, Md. campus. She shadowed a freshman, attended classes, and watched a workout.

“That opened my eyes and solidified what I wanted to do. To see it myself was a big step in terms of seeing myself there,” Henderson said.

In June, Henderson returned to the Naval Academy for a program titled Summer Seminar that’s only open to high school juniors. The biggest takeaway was that she was around like-minded individuals who were goal driven both academically and athletically. It was as if she was looking in the mirror.

“The people I was there with are the same ones I’m going to be in class with,” she said.

Susanna Henderson
Susanna and Cumberland AD/Girls Cross-Country Head Coach Marty Crowley.

There’s more to Henderson than her status as the unquestioned linchpin of a Cumberland High girls’ cross-country team that captured the Class A title last weekend and is considered one of the favorites to win the state title when harriers from around the state converge upon Ponaganset High this Saturday. She also competes in indoor track and lacrosse.

Ranked second in her senior class, Henderson is also the student body president. With so much going on, she’s mastered the art of prioritizing – perform one task before shifting focus to the next item on the to-do list.

“She crosses all the T’s and dots the I’s,” said Marty Crowley, Cumberland’s cross-country head coach and also the school’s athletic director. “Like she does with our team and does in school and student government, she gets to her first priority and moves on.”

Susanna Henderson

Her strong academic background represented an important piece of the puzzle as Henderson mapped out her post-high school plan, hence the appeal of the Naval Academy.

“I knew I didn’t want to enlist in the Navy. I wanted to have school as part of the experience and balance the two. My goal is to serve in the Navy and have that academic piece,” Henderson said. “The academy isn’t the goal. It’s the path toward the goal. Thankfully, the one that appealed the most to me worked out.”

The application process opened in May and was completed by the time the bell rang for Henderson to begin her senior year at Cumberland. The focus was then shifted to the fitness test that’s a prerequisite for all prospective candidates. Some of the requirements such as running a mile along with pushups and situps weren’t exactly uncharted territory for Henderson. Shuttle runs and throwing a basketball as far as humanly possible were among the parts of the test that required her to double down her efforts.

Susanna Henderson

“It was different in the sense that it was legitimately counting for something … trying to maximize as many events as I could,” Henderson said.

With Crowley serving as her designated spotter and chief motivator, Henderson set aside one afternoon in September for a 45-minute grind of a test to cement her candidacy. The running portion was the last event with Henderson required to clock a sub-six-minute mile – not exactly a major stretch for someone who’s no stranger to relying on her legs to comb wood-covered trails.

“She absolutely crushed it,” Crowley said. “No surprise.”

Henderson has her sights set on earning a roster spot on the Navy’s cross-country team and plans to pursue an undergraduate degree in engineering. For a young lady who to date has demonstrated clear-as-day the motivation to handle a full plate, the skill set that enabled her to walk through the doors that guard the Navy campus figures to be equally important as she moves forward.

Brendan McGair is a sportswriter and columnist with the Pawtucket Times and the Woonsocket Call. A graduate of Providence College, McGair is a five-time recipient of the R.I. Sports Writer of the Year Award as voted by the National Sports Media Association (NSMA).

Follow McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03 and on Instagram @bwmcgair.