Laguna Beach native Cole McKechnie inducted into Naval Academy class of 2025

Laguna Beach native Cole McKechnie has been inducted into the Naval Academy's class of 2025.
(Courtesy of Phil Hoffmann)

Laguna Beach native Cole McKechnie was used to a life that threw twists and turns his way.

He spent about a decade in Europe, and a brief stint in Pennsylvania, before returning to the local seaside community where his mother grew up.

His family has now been back in Laguna Beach for six years, but a well-traveled childhood will embolden one to feed that wanderlust.

There will be big adventure and big responsibility in the future for McKechnie, who was recently inducted into the U.S. Naval Academy class of 2025.

McKechnie committed to the Navy men’s water polo program ahead of fall signing day last year. A four-year varsity player, he helped the Santa Margarita Eagles win the Trinity League as a two-meter defender in the coronavirus pandemic-shortened season.

“He is not a kid who sits still,” McKechnie’s mother, Alyse, said. “If he is not playing water polo or doing his work, he is trying to skydive or spearfish or be with his friends.”

Attending and competing for the Naval Academy comes with a five-year commitment of service time. There was already a family history in the Navy. McKechnie’s maternal grandfather Winthrop Orgera (Naval Academy class of 1963) was in the military from 1963 through 1969, serving two tours in Vietnam on a carrier as a pilot.

Orgera fondly remembered a family picture of his grandson attending an Army-Navy football game watch party when he was just 2 years old.

McKechnie’s father, Chris, noted that his son had always had an aptitude for history. Orgera echoed those sentiments when he recalled a visit to Normandy.

“When we were in Europe, we went on a trip to Normandy, and he was able to tell the guide about everything that had happened there, so he is well-versed … in history,” Orgera said. “We’ve talked quite a bit about the Academy and being in the service. I wasn’t at all surprised that that was the route he chose.”

About 1,200 candidates were selected from more than 16,000 applications to become part of the Naval Academy’s freshman class, according to a news release.

Currently, McKechnie is in the middle of plebe summer, a period intended to prepare the incoming Midshipmen for the start of their collegiate academic career. Plebes learn discipline in the six-week stretch, as they are to go without television, movies, internet or music during that time. They may only make three phone calls during the duration of plebe summer.

His parents said that he made the decision to commit to the naval service academy completely on his own, and their belief is that the full schedule that he kept growing up will serve him well.

“He has known what he wanted to do,” Chris said. “He has been coaching kids [in swimming] in this area, getting up at 6 o’clock in the morning, and going and showing that work ethic that I think is consistent with what he’s now gotten himself into.

“I think the athletics that he’s been involved in, kind of the scheduling that he puts himself to, the rigor that he places upon himself, I think that those things have equipped him well.”

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