The Nikiski High School boys soccer team had a distinctively international flavor in its midfield this season.
That's where Felix Euler, an exchange student from Giessen, Germany, found himself this spring.
Euler's numbers stood out -- the 6-foot, 175-pound senior scored six goals and assisted on six more during Nikiski's 2-8 regular season -- even though he claims his skills didn't.
"Our whole team is pretty even," Euler said after the Bulldogs finished up a practice session last week. "We don't have a couple of really good players or a couple of bad players. I fit in really well."
Euler has been a good fit for the Bulldogs, pushing his teammates with his own driving play.
"If I had one word to describe Felix, that would be competitor," said Nikiski boys soccer coach Jim Coburn. "I've gotten to know him over that past month and a half, and he competes at a very high level."
Competition has been an important part of Euler's stay in Nikiski. He ran on the Bulldogs' cross country team, placing seventh at the 1-2-3A state championship meet at Tsalteshi Trails last fall to help Nikiski to the team championship.
After the cross country season ended, Euler went out for wrestling. Walking into the Nikiski mat room for the first time was quite an experience.
Finished seventh at the Class 1-2-3A state cross country championships last fall to help Nikiski to the boys team title.
Went out for wrestling and basketball for Nikiski, even though he had little or no experience in both sports.
Had six goals and six assists for the soccer team.
In the classroom
Earned mostly A's and B's this year in the classroom, even though his grades will not count when he returns to Germany.
"I had the most success in cross country," Euler said. "Wrestling was the newest experience for me -- I had never done it before.
"It was frustrating at the beginning. I came into the mat room, and I didn't know anything about it. It was much more fun at the end of the season when I learned what I should be doing out on the mat."
After wrestling, it was on to basketball -- another sport in which Euler had little experience before coming to Alaska.
"I played JV -- I wasn't too skilled," Euler said. "I did it to participate in a sport that I probably never would have played."
Euler attacked the cross country trails, the wrestling mat and the hardwood with the same enthusiasm, one of the major components to his improvement and success.
"He's really aggressive in all the sports he does," said Chris Roofe, a teammate on the wrestling and soccer teams and part of Euler's current host family. "He likes physical contact, and he's a good team player. You can tell that he's thinking in the sports he plays -- he doesn't just do them. He doesn't make dumb mistakes."
Roofe and Euler were in different weight classes and never got a chance to match up during the wrestling season, but Roofe did take notice of Euler's rapid development.
"He improved a lot more than most first-year wrestlers," Roofe said.
After exploring some unknown territory with wrestling and basketball, Euler was able to finish the school year with a sport he grew up playing -- soccer.
"I never played with a team, but in Germany, growing up, you just go out and play -- like basketball here," Euler said.
Euler said he enjoyed Nikiski's soccer season, though he admitted it wasn't without its disappointments.
"We had a lot of close games that we lost that we could have won," Euler said.
"He has high expectations of himself," Coburn said. "He gets frustrated if he's not playing at the level he thinks he should be."
Coburn said Euler was a great player to have on any team.
"He's a team leader by example," Coburn said. "He plays hard and he's always trying to help his teammates. He's got a positive attitude -- that's a big part of it too."
Euler said he's done well in the classroom, earning mostly A's and B's, though he admits to slacking with his studies a little bit this spring.
"I got a little bit lazy. I have to repeat this year in Germany anyway, and I'm not going to use these grades," Euler said.
Euler's exchange ends in July, after which he has two more years of secondary education to complete in Germany. Schooling is a little bit different in Germany. Euler compared his last two years of high school to the first years at an American college.
"You do a lot more work on your own, going to the library to do research," Euler said. "There's not as much sitting in the classroom and listening to the teacher lecture."
Euler will serve a year in the German military or complete a year of public work as well, something required of all young men once they reach the age of 18.
In the meantime, Euler plans to do some exploring around Alaska.
"I have two months without school," Euler said. "I'll do a lot of camping. Swimming in the ocean is probably not going to happen, but I'll do some fishing to see what that's like.
"We don't do that much fishing in Germany."
Euler began his exchange with Craig and Linda Ralston, and is ending his stay with Roofe and his parents, Gene and Teri. He came to Alaska through the Youth For Understanding student exchange organization.
Coming to Nikiski from Giessen, a town of about 90,000, has taken some getting used to, but Euler said that living in a small community does have its advantages.
"It's been a lot easier to make friends," Euler said.
In addition to his busy extracurricular schedule, Euler found time to get in some snowboarding this winter in Girdwood.
"I spent a lot of time involved in school sports," Euler said. "I like snowboarding, and I did some snowboarding in Germany. I went to Alyeska quite a bit."
Euler said that his experience with sports helped him form some lasting memories and some strong friendships.
"I got to know the people I've become friends with (through sports)," Euler said. "They like the same things I do and have the same hobbies.
"I've enjoyed my exchange. I think it's enhanced my personality."
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