Nikiski's Travis McGahan controls the ball in a game against Seward last week.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Nikiski senior Travis McGahan is the type of football player who's always diving for passes in practice.
Or the type of basketball player who's always hitting the floor in an attempt to draw a charge.
Or the type of soccer player who, after losing 2-1 to Soldotna in muddy, rainy conditions Saturday, got right back on the field after the game to practice his shot.
"That's Travis," Nikiski football coach Ned Clooten said. "He likes getting down and dirty."
Besides being a gritty player, coaches describe McGahan as an enthusiastic leader and as a versatile athlete.
"He's a team leader in any sport he plays," Nikiski boys soccer coach Jim Coburn said. "He seems to be a leader by example. He gives you 110 percent every game.
"He's one of those players I'll really miss after he graduates."
Nikiski boys basketball coach Reid Kornstad said McGahan was the Most Valuable Player on the team this year. The Bulldogs did not win a lot of games this season, but Kornstad said McGahan was invaluable not only because he led the team in points and rebounds, but because he brought so much intensity to practice.
"He's always been extremely hard-working, and at the same time extremely coachable," Kornstad said. "He's been blessed with some good athletic ability. A combination of those three things has made him an outstanding person to coach."
Travis is the son of Per and LeAnn McGahan. LeAnn said that from the time her son started playing soccer in first grade, he embraced sports as a way to blow off some steam.
"He's the nicest kid in the world," LeAnn said. "When I see him out there in sports, sometimes I'm a little surprised that he can be so aggressive.
"It's a positive outlet."
McGahan started out his high school athletic career by getting to be a part of a small-schools state football championship as a freshman, even though he had never played tackle football prior to high school.
"I never expected anything like that," McGahan said. "I had no clue what to do. Those guys were great. They took me up on their shoulders and showed me what to do."
McGahan claimed the starting quarterback job as a sophomore, but the Bulldogs missed the playoffs. As a junior, he broke his wrist midway through the season. This kept him from playing quarterback, but he played linebacker with a cast on and helped the Bulldogs make the playoffs.
This season, McGahan did a bit of everything for Nikiski in earning first team all-small-schools state honors at return specialist and outside linebacker. He passed for 147 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 147 yards and two scores and caught six balls for 95 yards.
"I would label Travis as a very versatile athlete," Clooten said. "It seems he can do everything."
McGahan has signed to play football next season at Valley City State University, where he plans to major in business administration.
In basketball, McGahan closed out his career by claiming first team all-Southcentral Conference honors this season despite his squad's low win total.
"Nothing ever fell our way," McGahan said. "We never gave up and that's what made it fun.
"The team was brought together more, even though we weren't winning very many games."
In soccer, McGahan has been a starter on the varsity since his freshman season. The game has always been a passion of his, and he also has coached and officiated the sport. The Bulldogs have never been to state, but McGahan is hoping the senior-laden team can change that this year.
"He's the heart and soul of our soccer team right now," Coburn said.
McGahan, who gets A's and B's at Nikiski and is an avid snowmachiner and follower of the stock market, said his athletic career at Nikiski has been a great experience.
"Nikiski athletics are really good," McGahan said. "They teach you not only how to work with others, but to have pride in what you are doing."
As for the reason for McGahan's gritty style, the senior gives some credit to LeAnn.
"My mother is the one thing that has kept me motivated for sports," he said. "Throughout my high school career, she only missed four games out of all the games I've played."
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