By Kay S. PedrottiNick Maskell is a newly commissioned ensign in the United States Navy who says he still has a lot to prove.He has been in Barnesville visiting relatives during a leave between his graduation from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and his leaving for Stanford University in California for graduate work in applied physics. Interviewed at the home of his grandparents, Dave and Mary Maskell, Nick tells about multiple achievements but speaks his story with humility and humor.’It’s hard to imagine,’ he says, ‘that I’m an officer in the Navy but ensign is the lowest-ranking officer. This is right after I was a ‘˜firstie’ (the academy name for seniors) in charge of other people and being a leader all the time. Now I get to begin again and earn the respect of those around me before the leadership opportunities come again.’After successfully completing his work at Stanford, he will go on to Navy flight school in Pensacola, Fla. His assignment may arise from the many honors he earned at Annapolis, not the least of which was an academic standing of 116 in a class of 1,099. Nick is very excited about becoming a Navy pilot, he says, following in his grandfather’s footsteps (see separate story).The road for Maskell began at Mt. de Sales Academy in Macon where he lettered in track and cross-country and had outstanding grades. He says most midshipmen at Annapolis are athletes — ‘it really helps with the discipline you have to learn.’Two of his Macon track coaches/ teachers, Chad Barwick and Jeff Dobias, are listed among those who have been his inspirations.With his experience and skill, Maskell was able to get a place on the Navy’s Marathon Team, traveling the U.S. and running for the Navy for three and a half years of the four at the academy.’Of course I love to run,’ he adds, ‘but the best part was seeing all the different cities.’In an unusual twist of fate, he and his friend and fellow Mt.de Sales graduate Terrell Raley wound up in the same company at the academy. He says Terrell has already begun his Navy assignment in surface warfare in the Sea of Japan.Bibb County Rep. Jim Marshall approved Maskell’s academy appointment after a rigorous interview process and records-checking. The Blue and Gold Officer, an academy liaison who questions and orients candidates, made clear that midshipmen are not approved just for academic achievements.’They look for leadership potential,’ Maskell says. ‘So it helps if you have been a club or class president or have had other leadership positions.’Another eye-opener was learning that the academy is ‘not like college,’ he says. For instance, there are mandatory formations many times a day, with companies marching to meals and other places on campus. He adds there are few second chances for midshipmen — ‘if you fail something, you fail it; you can get separated (the term for leaving the academy at its request).’ One definitely learns time management, he said.The two top academic lists at Annapolis are the superintendent’s list and commandant’s list. Nick made the superintendent’s list four semesters and the commandant’s list for all four years. He was a member of Sigma Pi Sigma physics honor society, a finalist in the William P. Lawrence essay competition and earned many more leadership honors.’Both sides of the family are just as proud as we can be of Nick,’ says grandmother Mary Maskell.’He’s definitely a hard worker and we’re just amazed at all he’s done.’ Hard work is a requisite for Annapolis. He liked being there because of the structure and the high-performance atmosphere that encourages each midshipman to do his or her best, he said. The academy is about 20% female now.Nick is grateful to his family for their love and support, especially his father Gregg Maskell. Learning Tae Kwan Do and earning a second-degree black belt with Johnny Ahn also was a milestone, he said.He is committed to eight years in the Navy but doesn’t know if it will be a lifetime career. Staying in might depend on whether he has a family in eight years. He facetiously said he’d like to be ‘the most eligible bachelor in Barnesville,’ but he isn’t serious at all about anything that would take his focus from Navy success.His grandfather Dave Maskell was a Navy fighter attack pilot and retired as a Delta MD-11 captain.’Nick did it all on his own.I couldn’t be prouder of him,’ said Dave.