In front of her family, friends and teammates, Payne signed her appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy on Tuesday afternoon.
She said it was a long process, but once she visited Annapolis, Md., after her junior year, she knew it was the place for her.
“I went to the summer seminar and fell in love with the atmosphere,” said Payne. “It felt like instant family.”
Much like her older sister, Evelyn, Payne had more than one chance to enter a military academy; she also had the option to go to West Point. Unlike her sister, she chose to become a midshipman instead of a cadet.
She said her sister was her main influence and that she looked up to her. That didn’t stop her from a little trash-talking, however.
“We’ll be beating her in football each year,” she said.
“I feel very proud,” said Payne’s mother, Marvalisa. “I feel fortunate to have kids like that who are willing to sacrifice and see the bigger picture.”
While at the academy, Payne plans on studying biology on the road to becoming a Navy nurse or doctor.
At the signing was Navy captain J.C. Williams, who interviewed Payne before she was accepted.
“She’s a hard-charger who doesn’t make a lot of noise and gets the job done,” Williams said. “I was very impressed with her.”
Jerry Meitin, who coached Payne in cross country for two seasons after she transferred from Greenbrier, made her a team captain last season.
“She had a command presence about her already,” Meitin said.
Heading into her first year at Annapolis, Payne is upbeat about being able to handle the inherent pressure a military academy brings.
“I’m a little nervous, but I adapt really quickly,” Payne said.