Sports

International Eagles flying in to state

Going to another country for a year can be a nerve-racking experience, especially as a high school student. Often, students find themselves apprehensive about leaving a setting they’ve known all their lives, as well as family and friends.

But as Klahowya exchange students Dan Hornung and Philip Andersson have discovered, the experience is anything but harrowing when you have a friend going through the same thing.

Hornung, from Germany, and Andersson, from Sweden, sail into the 2A WIAA State Tennis Tournament in Yakima this weekend after earning the second and final berth out of the West Central District tourney as a doubles tandem that has left several Nisqually League opponents frustrated all season.

But the duo’s friendship is now forged in a bond much greater than the sport they share.

“We did the same sports most the time,” Hornung, 17, said. “Only in winter we split up.”

“Oh yeah,” Andersson said when asked if having a friend in the same situation made the transition easier. “It’s exactly the same experience and all that. It’s someone you can talk to. Someone who understands your problems.”

In coming to Klahowya, the problems have been few and far between for the duo, who have each played tennis and soccer for the Eagles this year. In the winter, Andersson suited up for the Klahowya hoops squad while Hornung tried his hand at both swimming and wrestling.

Andersson played tennis and golf in Stockholm, his home town, while Hornung played tennis and volleyball, a sport offered for boys in his home village near Stuttgart. Both are considered juniors at KSS, and both are in the 11th year of 13 based on their home school systems.

In their sports, both noticed differences on and off the courts. For both, their schools don’t offer sports. Rather, everything is club sports. As a result, the competition is tougher back home, they said.

“(Tennis) is kind of the same but in Sweden, you play and everyone is good,” Andersson said. “When you practice, everyone is on the same level.”

“For example, (in Germany) we had practice half of the year,” Hornung added. “And that was just once a week for one hour with Saturday games. Here, you do it really extensively. You practice everyday and get more exercise. I have more fun here.”

Part of that is being able to experience being part of a team, representing a school with pride. But some of it is just fun and games.

“It’s fun playing here,” Andersson added. “We play fun games, stuff like that. Like hitting the ball at each other.”

While that answer prompted Eagles tennis coach Bruce Pemberton to roll his eyes jokingly, he said the duo have been great assets to his team and the school.

“Absolutely,” Pemberton said. “They were very good instructors and technical influences on the rest of the team. They’re a little bit younger but a lot more mature. They were a good influence.”

In terms of their upcoming competition, Pemberton said he’s excited to see what the duo can do.

“We know the competition will be good over there,” Pemberton said. “We’ll see how good.”

Both Eagles also are eager to hit the courts.

“It’s awesome,” Andersson said of his upcoming trip to Yakima. “First the regular season, then districts. It’s been awesome.”

While both are excited to see Eastern Washington for the first time, Hornung has some added excitement as his family is flying in from Germany to catch the tourney. He said they’ll do some traveling as well before he returns home.

“I think that’ll be very fun,” Hornung said.

In terms of U.S. travel, Hornung said he did get to check out Seattle’s sites and sounds and made a trip down to Oregon. Andersson said he got to visit Hawaii and California.

Both had different opinions on the biggest differences between here and home.

“It’s been a good experience to come to a different place,” Andersson said, adding he got to try things he wouldn’t be able to in Stockholm, like hunting and fishing. “The biggest difference is with the schools. The people in general are different. Just what people do, their interests.”

But Hornung made sure to include food as well.

“Everywhere you see advertisements for German sausages,” he said. “It’s just cheap pork or something.”

Aside from having each other to rely on in their new surroundings, both said the students and staff at Klahowya have done a great job of making them feel right at home.

“It’s really amazing,” Hornung said. “Everyone is open and welcoming you. It’s nice. It’s pretty cool.”

Klahowya tennis teammate Kyle Spoon said the feelings were mutual, adding it’s pretty cool to have new-found friends from foreign countries.

“The whole thing about having friends in different countries is pretty cool,” Spoon said. “You get to know about other cultures. They taught me a lot.”

He agreed with Pemberton in saying the lessons that Hornung and Andersson brought with them were as important on the court as they were off it.

“It was good,” Spoon said. “They know a lot about the game and helped us out a lot. It probably still will (next year).”

While both have enjoyed their stays in Silverdale, both are equally eager to return home to family and friends with what they’ve learned.

“To be by yourself, I feel like I can be by myself,” Andersson said, adding that this year does not count in Sweden. “I wanted to be better in English. Also, I had a year in school without pressure of doing good.”

“I think I matured a lot,” Hornung added. “I know now that I can handle living on my own, being away from friends and family.”

And while next season they’ll be playing in their home countries, Pemberton agreed with Spoon in saying their influence will go on.

“You’ll still see their influence next year,” Pemberton said. “They’re great athletes and great young men. They’ll be remembered for a long time.”

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