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Wealth of opportunity

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It is always good to have choices. For Petaluma High School senior Nick Siembieda, those choices for career advancement range from good to better, to even better to best.

The two-way all-league football player and 4.0 student has been nominated to all four U.S. military academies and is eligible to apply to the Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, Merchant Marine Academy and the Military (Army) Academy at West Point.

For the athlete, the very best of those options is the Naval Academy, and unless something changes, he intends to apply for admission to the military school in Annapolis, Maryland.

It is a major commitment. After four years at the Naval Academy, he still has a five-year commitment to the Navy. That’s almost a decade out of an 18-year-old’s life.

There is also the option of continuing to play football. He has had contact with several schools, including UC Davis, about the possibility of playing football on the next level.

It was a decision that he has worked hard to have to make.

Siembieda was nominated for the academies by Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). To receive the nomination, the high school senior had to submit an application and then be interviewed by a panel consisting of representatives from each of the academies.

Within a week of his interview, he was notified that he had been officially nominated to the school of his choice.

So far, that choice has been easy for the Petaluman.

“My grandpa was a Naval aviator who flew in Vietnam,” the senior explains. “It has always been my dream to follow him.”

Siembieda’s grandfather, John Siembieda, who died two years ago, attended the University of Pennsylvania on a Navy ROTC scholarship and served 24 years in the Navy before retiring.

Ironically, the athlete’s size (he is listed at 6-foot, 3-inches, 250 pounds on the Petaluma roster), which is light for a football lineman, is large for an aviator.

He isn’t about to let that detail deter him.

“We’ll see what happens,” he says. “I know it will work out.”

For him, just attending the Naval Academy would be a great honor.

“This is a big step in my life. It took a lot of hard work to get here. I had a lot of people help me, and I didn’t want to let them down. That helped push me,” he explained.

He says his father, Dave Siembieda, has been his biggest supporter, but he acknowledges that his mother, Cary Dacy, while a strong supporter, “is a little worried.”

Siembieda credits athletics, especially football, for much of his success in life and for helping him prepare for what comes next.

“If you want a model of what a Petaluma High School athlete should be, Nick would be a great example,” says Petaluma athletic director and football coach Rick Krist. “He is a great person on and off the field.

“He is a quiet leader. He was the guy we leaned on because of physical ability and because of who he is. He doesn’t want to let anyone down. When he makes a commitment, he sticks to it.”

Siembieda was chosen Petaluma High’s Lineman of the Year, but more than that, he was one of the best players in the highly competitive Vine Valley Athletic League. He was selected all-league first team on both offense and defense.

Like many Petaluma youngsters, Siembieda grew up playing baseball. He credits Cole Powers for getting him involved in football.

“He told me how much fun it was,” the lineman said. As it turned out, the two spent their high school careers playing together, with Siembieda on the line and Powers at quarterback.

Siembieda is as outstanding in the classroom as he is on the football field, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average and earning spots on both the National Honor Roll and the school’s Trojan Honor Roll.

He still found time to help victims of the North Bay fires, to help Powers coach a Boys and Girls Clubs basketball team and to help his mother at the Sonoma Boys and Girls Clubs, where she is CEO.

While his future may well be in the wild blue yonder or riding the waves, Siembieda has more immediate and down-to-earth tasks.

He is looking forward to playing in Saturday’s Tri-County All-Star football game for graduating seniors.

And, of course, there is still a semester of high school to finish and a chance to enjoy just a few more months with his friends and teammates.

For Siembieda, that last semester also includes baseball, and a chance to play on what is anticipated to be an excellent Trojan diamond team.

All the while, he has some choices to make — all of them good.