Friendly rivalry kicks off as Central grads head to service academies
Longtime friends Mike Fikaris and Justin Katzovitz will be headed to West Point and the Air Force Academy, respectively. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 8, 2012 8:14AM
The rivalry, albeit good-natured, already has started for a couple of just-graduated Hinsdale Central students who have been close friends since meeting in preschool.
Justin Katzovitz and Mike Fikaris have attended school together, played football together and socialized together. But while there is a similarity between their respective college choices, they are now headed in different directions.
Katzovitz is headed to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Fikaris also will be attending a service academy, but his choice is the Army’s United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
“We had to start the rivalry already, but it’s all in fun, and we’ll always be friends,” Fikaris said. “I know we’ll continue to keep in touch with each other.”
For Fikaris, heading to West Point after high school has been on his mind for many years.
“My grandfather attended West Point, and my father was a medic in the Army,” he said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to go to West Point. I was a captain on our football team, and I’ve always been a leader in my sport. It’s such a great education that I’ll be able to get at West Point, and I’ll come out as an Army officer.”
Katzovitz actually considered attending West Point before deciding to make the Air Force Academy his choice.
“I took a tour the summer going into my junior year and loved it, but it’s not where I wanted to be,” he said. “The appeal for me of the Air Force Academy is planes. There are so many opportunities around engines and aerospace; I want to build airplanes.”
While they will be attending different service academies, the two friends do agree on one of the major appealing factors offered at both schools: training to become a leader.
“I want to be a leader,” Katzovitz said. “I know the expectations are very high, but I know exactly what I’m getting into. The only thing scary to me is that you can get kicked out for a lot of reasons, like getting sick. Things out of your control can still get you kicked out, and this is something I really want so much.”
Fikaris said he believes Hinsdale Central prepared him and Katzovitz well for their journeys to the service academies.
“It will be a huge adjustment; they want to break you down, but I think we have been prepared very well here,” Fikaris said. “It’s going to be very physically demanding with eight weeks of basic training.”
Being accepted into their respective service academies was an accomplishment in itself. The process is extremely competitive, and applicants to both the Air Force Academy and West Point need to be nominated by a senator, representative, the president or vice president. Katzovitz was given his nomination by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin; Fikaris got his nomination from U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, R-13th, of Hinsdale.
“I know that I’ll make new friends, and we’re going to be a long way from each other, but we will keep on touch, and we’ll continue to be friends,” Katzovitz said.