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Falk Thieme has been making an impression at local track meets this spring in the high jump, long jump and shot put for the Outlaws. (BRAD MOSHER/The Observer)
Wallowa County makes good use of its exchange students, putting them to work on the tracks, fields and courts of its high schools.
Four European students are standouts on the combined Enterprise and Wallowa track team, coached this spring by Dan Moody, the Enterprise athletic director.
David Hartlich runs the 100 and 200 meters, and is a member of the 1,600-meter relay team. Before coming to Enterprise, he said skateboarding was his sport in his home of Koblenz, Germany.
Hartlich said he went out for cross country last fall, but arrived later than the other exchange students and hadn’t acclimated to the altitude from his home on the Rhine River.
“I wanted to run and I told Moody I wanted to try track,” said Hartlich.
He surprised himself — not only does he like track, but is doing well. “I didn’t expect that I could compete with Americans and be good at it. I like to challenge myself,” said Hartlich.
He will be competing with three Enterprise teammates in the 1,600-meter relay tonight at the state track championship meet in Eugene.
He played basketball this winter, a sport he’d never tried before. He was a shooting guard on the junior varsity team and said he really loved it.
Hartlich had the advantage of living with a family with a Scandinavian-style wood-fired sauna. He said he’s taken full advantage of it, especially after track practice.
He’s seen a bit of the country, traveling to Massachusetts, Washington and will go to Texas shortly before he returns home for three more years of high school.
“I’m sad it’s over in six weeks. It’s probably been the best year of my life,” said Hartlich.
Hanna Eivindson is from Kristiansand, Norway, and attends Wallowa High School. Her sport at home is handball, but she ran cross country, played basketball, and is excelling at both long jump and triple jump.
“I always wanted to try cross country. I ran at home for fun.”
This year, she’s played big sister to 6 and 8 year-old boys and lived on a farm in the Mid-Valley.
She is used to natural beauty. From her home, she has views of mountains and fjords.
“I live by the coast, but I love it here,” said Eivindson.
She celebrated Syttende Mai, the Norwegian Constitution Day, on May 17 with a local Norwegian family. It is also called Norway’s Independence Day.
She’s traveled with her host family to Fiji, the Grand Canyon and the Oregon Coast.
Eivindson said she has made a lot of friends in the short time she’s been here and was named both homecoming and prom queen for Wallowa High.
She’ll return home to study all summer before she attends her last year of high school. She plans to major in engineering when she graduates and would like to study in America.
Looking back on a busy and diverse year she said, “My best experience here was sports.”
Falk Thieme is the only one of “Moody’s foreign legion” that has experience in track. He said he’s been in a
Thieme ran cross country with host brother David Ribich and said running the hills around Enterprise were a challenge.“In Leipzig (Germany) it’s flat and we have little hills,” said Thieme.
He, too, isn’t looking forward to leaving. “I had an awesome year — every day of it,” said Thieme.
Graf finds friendships
Hannah Graf had a varied sampling of the life of an American teenager. Besides running cross country and both the 1,500- and 3,000-meter events in track, she was a cheerleader during basketball season for Enterprise High.
She is used to small towns. Her city of Illnau, Switzerland, has 4,000 residents, but is close to Zurich, the largest city in the country with a population of nearly 400,000 people.
She said she speaks Swiss-German at home, but at school she speaks German.
The American experience has been all she expected and more.
“I was looking for an adventure and dreaming of moving out to discover new countries and learn to speak better English,” said Graf.
At home, she plays soccer and snowboards and said she spent almost every weekend riding at Ferguson Ridge this winter.
While she was here she got to see the Grand Canyon and travel to Portland a few times, though she said she’s had an amazing year in Enterprise.
“I’ve made a lot of deep friendships. I love America. I’m sure I’m coming back,” said Graf.