Dawson Waage: From Hart to Annapolis, but always in the water

Hart's Dawson Waage swims the 100-yard butterfly against Golden Valley High School earlier this year. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Editor’s note: This is the third in a continuing series looking at Santa Clarita Valley residents who earned acceptance into the various U.S. military academies.

Dawson Waage, a 2019 graduate of Hart High School, said he had a cousin who went to West Point. 

“I always looked up to him as a kid,” Waage said. “He was kind of an idol to me.”

Waage, due to his merits in the pool and in the classroom, thought he was a perfect fit for both the physical and academic rigors of the United States Naval Academy. He acquired a 4.49 grade-point average and had a number of accolades to his name in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle races, as well as being named Hart swim team captain.

“Swimming has been huge in my life physically and mentally,” Waage said. “I’ve had a lot of yelling coaches, and I’ve had a lot of mad, angry coaches my whole life.”

But for Waage, that wasn’t going to bother him, he said. It never really did. For him, it was all preparation for what awaits him this summer and fall: when he would officially join the other cadets for the first time at the Naval Academy.

He had been recruited by their swim coach, he says, but before he could join the team for practice, he was inducted into the Naval Academy Class of 2023 on June 27, and Plebe Summer began.

Approximately 1,200 candidates are selected each year for the academy’s “plebe” or freshman class, and each student is required to participate in Plebe Summer. During this time, plebes have no access to television, movies, the internet or music, and restricted access to cellphones. They are only permitted to make three calls during the six weeks of Plebe Summer, and spend their time learning basic skills of seamanship, navigation, damage control, sailing and handling yard patrol craft.

Plebes also learn infantry drilling, how to shoot 9mm pistols and M-16 rifles, various sports and five formal parades.

“I’m definitely very anxious, but more excited than anything,” said Waage, days before he was inducted a couple of weeks ago. “They break you down to give you discipline and get you ready for the next four years.”

Waage said that he hopes to use his degree and time at the Naval Academy to join the Marine Corps.

“I’m looking at special operations,” Waage said. “They have a lot of different things you can do. You just don’t have to be in the sea, and I want to go (through) the special services route.”

Waage says he would tell any student out there who is like him — young and wanting to attend an academy, out of a lifelong calling or desire to be like an idol of theirs — that he wouldn’t trade the option of going to the academy for anything.

“The application process makes you really want it,” Waage said. “I would definitely say to keep going through it. Don’t give up on it.”

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