My DNA Is Filled With Service: West Point, The Olympics, And Helping Others Achieve Their Potential

Elexa Diana (Wills) Orrange-Allen


Elexa Diana (Wills) Orrange-Allen was born in 1967 in Orange, Texas, but moved to Jasper, Texas, as a teenager. She grew up with an older brother and a younger sister. Her father, a longshoreman and Baptist minister, taught her the importance of hard work and instilled in her the values that have formed the bedrock of her life. Church was (and remains) an important part of her life. Even though Elexa enjoyed dolls and playing house and teacher, she had a “tomboy” side to her personality which her father nurtured, teaching her that her life had “no limits. Her mother died when she was 10, and when her father remarried, the family moved to Jasper, which was hard on her. As a high school freshman, she wanted to join the track team, but her stepmother would not let her. By the time she was a junior, she convinced her dad to let her run, and she competed in every event she could. The lesson of her stepmother prohibiting her from joining the team taught her that being on the track team was a privilege. She made the most of that privilege and became a Texas state champion. During high school, Shirley Payne became an influential “mother figure,” attending all her meets and supporting her even to this day. During her junior year, West Point sent her some literature and she began talking with her teachers and counselors about that opportunity. Her dad supported the idea of her attending West Point and she began thinking about what would be best for her future. Unsure of whether she would enjoy the military, she attended the Prep School (United States Military Academy Prep School – USMAPS) at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. She considers her prep experience critical because it prepared her for what she would experience at West Point, and she developed many strong relationships with her classmates. Reporting to West Point in the summer of 1986, she felt prepared, noting, “I was squared away.” She majored in psychology and enjoyed all of the physical education classes except “rock swimming.” In fact, “60 Minutes” filmed her completing the IOCT (Indoor Obstacle Course Test). She started her Cadet experience in G4, but graduated from C4 after being scrambled before her Cow year. She was involved in the Gospel Choir and in the Cultural Affairs Seminar, and appreciated the bonding experiences in both of those groups. Being on the track team was central to her time at West Point and she viewed training as an outlet, a release from the daily grind of Cadet life. Her driving thought was “how can I contribute?” By the time she was a Firstie, she was captain of both indoor and outdoor track. She describes how she did not understand the emphasis about beating Navy as a plebe until she was at the meet. From that point, she “drank the Kool Aid.” She emphasizes how intense the Navy meet was every year, and punctuates that by saying her personal record was 32-0 against the Naval Academy. She even reflects on the tradition of sending anonymous letters of encouragement to other track athletes in the lead-up to the Navy meet. She commissioned into the Finance Corps and got frost bite at the basic course at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indiana. She was assigned to the 3rd Finance Group at Ft. Hood, Texas, eventually serving as a disbursing officer, but she still trained and competed in the triple jump as part of the Army World Class Athlete program. In 1992, the International Olympic Committee announced the addition of the women’s triple jump to the 1996 games, and Elexa decided to leave the Army to focus on training and competing, ending up at Rice University, where she trained under Coach Jim Bevan from 1994 to 1996. She describes meeting the qualifying standards and earning a place on the Olympic team, making it on her final jump after praying “Lord, let your will be done.” She remembers overcoming obstacles, including serious bone spurs on an ankle that Doctor Thomas Parr, USMA 67, fixed in time for the trials. Training was a big commitment with “two-a-days” and a lot of mental preparation in addition to the physical development. She analyzed film, studied the mechanics of the triple jump, and tried to unlearn bad habits she had developed along the way. Jack Warner, the West Point coach, was an instrumental coach and advisor. When describing her feelings about the opening ceremony, she first reflects on how she felt graduating from West Point. When she graduated, Colin Powell handed her the diploma, and during the opening ceremony, Mohammed Ali, who was suffering from Parkinsons Disease, lit the Olympic flame. Graduation was big, but the opening ceremony was different, and the feeling of hearing the chant “USA, USA” really got to her. She recalls meeting other athletes in the Olympic village and appreciated their joy at being in the Olympics. She enjoyed interacting with teammates from other sports and meeting President Clinton after the games. Even though she had practiced in all physical conditions, she was not ready for the effect of massive amounts of adrenaline, noting that it was hard to adjust for that. After the Olympics, she competed grad school, took a job working in pharmaceutical and medical sales, and later moved to leadership development as a John Maxwell certified trainer for a finance company. Now she runs LEAP Coaching and Speaking Consultants, where she does executive coaching and leader development. She has two successful daughters and two grandsons. Reflecting on her service, she notes that “my DNA is filled with service,” starting from lessons her father taught her that were nurtured at the Military Academy. She considers the Olympics “the greatest stage to showcase hard work, commitment, struggles, and being the best version of yourself.” Finally, reflecting on West Point, she says it taught her to choose “the harder right over the easier wrong” and gave her principles to live by. Finally, even though her dad died five years ago, he is still inspiring her.


name Elexa Diana (Wills) Orrange-Allen
institution USMA
graduation year 1990
service Finance
unit 3rd Finance Group
specialty 1996 Olympics Triple Jump
service dates 1990