In July, he reports for “Plebe Summer,” an intense basic training for U.S. Navy officer candidates who will become midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
In addition to his goal of serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy, he will study systems engineering, a discipline that integrates mechanical and electrical engineering with computer science.
He brings experience as an International Baccalaureate graduate, a varsity football player and track and field athlete, and repeat achievement of his schools’ top scholar athlete awards. His IB certificate represents a full load of college-level courses and has pushed his grade-point average above 4.2, and he has yet to see his final transcripts.
Lanfranki said he entered high school knowing that only a top university could prepare him for a career that puts technological innovations to work.
“It wasn’t until I started researching the academies and all of the options that I could have that I decided on the Naval Academy,” he said, adding that he was also accepted at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, Colo.
“(Systems engineering) is a new major. It’s very unique, and the academies are among the few places that offer the major,” he said.
He started working on his military academy applications in the summer between his sophomore and junior years. The process included essays, interviews with academy faculty, a recommendation from San Joaquin County Supervisor Leroy Ornellas and a nomination from Rep. Dennis Cardoza.
Lanfranki expects the academic and athletic record the established at Tracy High will give him a head start on the rigors that life as a midshipman will present.
“My biggest concern is adjusting to the military lifestyle, because there are so many tricks to the trade, you just have to find out along the way,” he said. “That is probably the most intimidating. With regard to leadership, I think my background in football and being a team player is going to help out a lot there.”
Tracy High biology teacher Kirk Brown, who taught Lanfranki during two years of IB courses, said the Naval Academy will provide the type of challenges his former student thrives on.
“If you know Mark at all, you know he doesn’t need much prodding,” Brown said. “He has incredible self-discipline and has the ability to do things when they get hard. He doesn’t try to get around it or shortchange it. He does it.”
“Everything he does fits into his goal-oriented approach. He does it with pride and sincere effort.”
Lanfranki credits the complement of athletics with helping him stay focused on his goals. He held down offensive and defensive line duties on the Bulldog teams during the fall and was one of the San Joaquin Athletic Association’s top athletes in the discus and shot put during the spring track and field season. He and best friend Kevin Speer supported each other the entire time, including the Bulldogs’ 10-0 football season in their senior year, plus two rounds of playoffs, and through the section’s Masters track and field meet last month.
“We really bought into the program and found the discipline within ourselves to stick with the program. That was a major push, the discipline and the work ethic,” Lanfranki said, adding that the work ethic translated to academics.
“Through the study habits, you learn the IB material. I think I come out with an edge with regard to my study habits.”
Among his high school accolades, he counts California Golden Boys State and National High School Football Hall of Fame. The Tommy Greenhow award, which he received twice, acknowledged the combination of playing time and grade-point average, and the Weeks Award in his junior and senior years was the football team’s acknowledgment of his top scholar-athlete status. The Richard Romero Award was for his ability to inspire other athletes, and he received similar honors when he played basketball.
Lanfranki will join the Naval Academy track and field team to throw discus and javelin, and he will also see if there’s a place for him on the Navy football team.
“Football back East, especially at the Naval Academy, is a very big deal. They take it very seriously, and I’d like to be a part of it.”
It turns out that each opportunity is a chance to reach for new potential.
“I just think it’s the right thing to do. I was given a great opportunity, and I don’t think it would be fair to others to pass up that opportunity,” he said, adding that support of friends, coaches and teachers — he cites football coaches Mark Stroup and Jake Boyd, football and track and field coach Jay Fishburn, and Brown among them — is also a big motivation.
“Part of what drives me is the success they feel I could have,” he said. “Without their support, I may not have had the drive to put me where I am today.” Meet Mark Lanfranki
• Age: 18
• How long in Tracy: 16 years
• Birthplace: Folsom
• Education: International Baccalaureate Certificate, Tracy High School, Class of 2010
• Accomplishment: Appointment to U.S. Naval Academy
• Family: Parents Ann and David Lanfranki, older brother John Lanfranki •In the Spotlight is a weekly profile in Our Town. To nominate someone or to comment on this week’s column, call 835-4280 or e-mail email@example.com.