BURLINGTON, Kan. --
In a town of nearly 2,500, one Burlington High School student stands out among the rest. Marijane D. Huff, a Burlington, Kansas native, walks the halls of her school quickly—dashing from class to wrestling practice, then track and cross country. After school lets out and she finishes her practices, she rushes to work at Sonic, stays behind to volunteer at Burlington High to show her pride in the school, or makes time to volunteer at the Coffey County Sheriff’s Office. As she continues to fill her schedule from morning to night, she now adds another effort to the mix; preparing herself to don a Marine Corps Uniform.
“[Huff] has been volunteering with us since August of ,” said Becky Smith, an administration assistant with the sheriff’s office. “She does anything we need… she’s a wonderful young lady.”
Huff first interacted with the Marines as a freshman during a physical training event before Thanksgiving in 2018. As the granddaughter of a Marine, she has heard the call to serve like many others who have come before her in her family. Her own sister, who also wrestled, opted into joining the Army.
“I didn’t consider a different branch,” said Huff when asked if she had researched different avenues of service. “I wanted to join the hardest one and show I could do it.”
“When I first met [Huff], she carried herself with pride,” said her recruiter, Sgt. Alberto Figueroavidal. “She’s known this is what she’s wanted for a long time.”
Nearly three years later, on May 11, 2021 she stood before a Military Entrance Processing Station officiant to take her oath of enlistment. Now a poolee in the Delayed Entry Program, Huff awaits to depart her small town for Recruit Depot Parris Island.
“I expect that in recruit training she will go above and beyond,” said Figueroavidal. “I expect her to be a guide and maybe the honor graduate.”
Between her studies, volunteer actives and preparing herself for the rigors of Marine Corps Recruit training, this senior holds an impressive career as a state qualified wrestler and award winning runner in track and cross country.
“I started wrestling my freshman year,” Huff recalled. “I stood up to use the trash can while the announcements called for wresters to try out. Someone [in my class] said ‘you’re not going to try outs are you?’ and I said maybe I will.”
Huff tried her hand at wrestling, like her father had done in high school. Burlington High was looking for ‘pioneer wrestlers’ to lay the foundation of their women’s wrestling program, which at the time of Huff’s joining was barely a year old. Having no experience wrestling, she dove into the wrestling world and was determined to come out on top.
“She didn’t win any matches her first year,” said Coach Doug Vander Linden, head wrestling coach for Burlington. “She started winning during her last two matches of her 8th grade year.”
Vander Linden said during her career as a wrestler, she became the second female wrestler in the school’s history to win 100 matches and is one of only 15 girls in the entire state of Kansas to achieve such a feat.
“She is a three time league champion, two time regional champion and an all-state cross country and track runner,” said Vander Linden, who also coached her older sister and father when he attended Burlington.
This year, Huff set out to become a wrestling state champion. She prepared herself alongside her 14 other female wrestling teammates and represented Burlington in the 101lb weight class. In the semi-finals, she laid everything she had on the mat.
“I had wrestled this [opponent] before,” said Huff. “She had tossed me in the past. After the first period I had been rolled around quite a bit. The score was zero to eight.”
Huff was not dissuaded. She collected herself and prepared to change the outcome of the seemingly imminent loss.
“That [opponent] put her on her back and had her eight to nothing,” said Vander Linden. “A lot of kids would have folded tent and quit, but MJ did not.”
Huff continued, “During the last two periods I worked really hard. The final score was 17 to eight.”
Huff went onto the finals where she lost seven to zero, but she was recognized as winning second in the tournament for her weight class.
Now that she is a state ranked wrestler, she looks forward to the upcoming track and cross country season. As a senior, she intends to finish her high school career strong before she reaches for her next goal, earning the title of United States Marine.
“I think the Marines will change the direction of her life,” said Vander Linden. “There are a lot of innate qualities in her that I think will make her a great Marine. She loves her country… her patriotism shows through in a lot of the things she does and I think she will find her way into leadership in the Marines without a doubt.”
Huff is scheduled to depart Recruiting Substation Topeka, Recruiting Station Kansas City for Marine Corps recruit training in June. After recruit training Huff intends to complete the School of Infantry as an infantrywoman and continue on to Marine Security Duty abroad.
To learn more about opportunities in the Marine Corps go to Marines.com or call 1-800-MARINES to be connected with your local Marine Corps recruiter.