2 V.I. athletes making waves at Coast Guard Academy

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ST. THOMAS - Two Virgin Islanders are making names for themselves in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Jamen Descartes, who graduated from the academy, and Nikki Barnes, still a freshman at the academy, received kudos this year for their athletic prowess.

Descartes, of St. Thomas, was one of more than 200 cadets to receive his bachelor of science degree during the academy's graduation ceremony in New London, Conn., on Wednesday. He graduated with honors and also with several boxing medals under his belt.

Descartes was a two-time All-American boxer and twice placed third in the National Collegiate Boxing Association Championships, most recently during this year's championships in April and in last year's championships, he said.

"I'd never done boxing before," Descartes said Friday.

Following his four years at the academy, Descartes, who studied civil engineering, now is going to be assigned to the Coast Guard cutter, Sherman, based out of San Diego, Calif.

"Everything starts in high school. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you that the decisions you make in high school are going to decide your future. Study hard, play sports, and have fun. That's what I needed to make it through the academy," said Descartes, a former JROTC member at Charlotte Amalie High School. He graduated from the school in 2010.

Nikki Barnes, also of St. Thomas, made the territory proud as well, in her first year at the academy.

Barnes, a 2012 graduate of Antilles School, was named the 2013-2014 Outstanding Female Freshman Athlete of the Year by the academy.

Barnes is known for her sailing skills and was recruited by the academy for their sailing team.

Barnes could not be reached for comment, as she was traveling Friday with the academy.

The Coast Guard Academy, founded in 1876, is one of the smallest of five federal service academies, with more than 900 cadets enrolled. Like the other academies, it is highly selective and charges no tuition. The academy's curriculum emphasizes leadership, physical fitness and professional development.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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