Friday, May 21, 2010
CHAFFEE, Mo. -- Foreign-exchange student Luisa Boschan said she has not gotten to do a lot of tourist activities since arriving from Germany in August.
Along with other exchange students, the junior got a look around New York in her first five days in the United States.
Shortly after arriving in Chaffee, Mo., she settled into her role as a student. Touring was not a necessity to pique Boschan's interest.
"At the beginning of the year I was excited for everything to see, it didn't matter what it was -- just Chaffee," Boschan said.
Her travels since arriving have been confined to Missouri.
"Branson, St. Louis, Jefferson City, but that was pretty much it," Boschan said.
When she returns to Germany next month, Boschan may describe Branson as a getaway destination full of musical shows and backwoods heritage. St. Louis may be the place with the arch and Cardinals baseball.
Jefferson City, well, that might best be described as the place where they give away medals.
Boschan visited Missouri's capital in early November and returned with a nice souvenir around her neck. It was the first-place medal from the Class 1 cross country meet.
Boschan is back in Jefferson City today in a quest for four more souvenirs. She will be among a contingent of local athletes at the Class 1 and Class 2 track and field championships when she competes in four events -- 800 meters, 1,600, 3,200 and 3,200 relay.
Boschan will be on the track in what would have been her final official day of school at Chaffee High School.
In 10 months, the 16-year-old brunette with the distinct German accent has become a champion, sister and friend in a rural town far removed from her home city of Berlin.
"Everybody loves her, and she's real easy to get along with," said Chaffee junior Randi Wiley, who is a member of Boschan's host family. "She's fun."
Wiley has been more than a host. She's been a teammate in cross country, basketball and track. Wiley, who lived in Germany until she was 2 when her father was stationed there in the Army, will not be among the Red Devils competing at state, but she's had a hand in a successful stay for Boschan.
"If I didn't have her ... she helped me with everything in school," Boschan said. "I got to know people and with the classes, with the English ... she helped me a lot."
Boschan's running skills have helped her make a smooth transition into the school and community. Most countries do not incorporate athletic programs into educational institutions like the United States.
"I really like the school here," Boschan said. "We don't have the sports in school. I joined a club to run. You have the opportunity to play different sports through the year in school with the people you study with. I like that."
The German way
In Berlin, she had been running competitively in clubs since age 12.
Part of the reason the Wileys chose to be a host for Boschan is because the German girl had a lot in common with Randi, who also likes to run.
"It's kind of a family thing," Boschan said of running. "My mom started running, and I just wanted to go with her and do what she did.
"I started and I think I quit after a while because I was so bad. I could not even run for two miles. I was so frustrated. I don't know why I like it so much. I just like it and kept doing it and got better."
Boschan had success as a club runner -- she said she often would finish in the top three in races against runners her own age -- but in the United States she was going to run cross country for a coach in the Show-Me State.
"I think they told me she would be pretty quick, but I've heard that a lot of times," said Travis Calkins, the cross country and girls track coach at Chaffee. "After that first week of cross country, it was pretty obvious she was very talented."
Boschan won the SEMO Conference small school cross country title by nearly two minutes, then went on to win district and state titles.
Giving basketball a shot
The gifted runner then got out of her element when she signed up to play basketball for the Red Devils -- her first foray into the sport.
Boschan never participated in the basketball clubs in Berlin. Her smile broadened when she spoke of her time on the hardwood in America, ranking it among her most cherished experiences at Chaffee.
"I will never forgot how I played basketball," Boschan said. "I could not do that in Germany because of the clubs.
"I was awful, but I tried. It was fun. I wish I could play it in Germany."
Boschan returned to what she does best this spring, and has been a force on the track.
She is undefeated in the 3,200 and has lost just twice in the 1,600. One of the losses came to Arcadia Valley's Saga Barzowski, the Class 2 cross country champion last fall. Boschan had beaten Barzowski in the 1,600 in a meet at Festus, but she ran 10 seconds faster in her loss at Ste. Genevieve, running a season-best 5 minutes, 11 seconds.
"I got second, but I got a 5:11 and I was really happy about that," Boschan said.
Calkins said talent, hard work and experience are the keys to Boschan's success.
"She's only 16, but she's run half-marathons, she's run steeplechase, she's run a lot of various distances," Calkins said. "She's done a lot for 16."
Boschan also has a passion for the sport that is not lost on Calkins.
"One day, her and I, in the snow and ice, ran to Delta and back," Calkins said. "She just loves it. She loves to run."
Bearing a heavy load
In track, Boschan is taking on a competitive workload she's not experienced previously. In club running and cross country, she was competing in single events.
Boschan began competing in four events through her final four meets this season, which included first-place performances in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, as well as the 3,200 relay, at last week's district meet.
Boschan will have to run five times at the state championships if she qualifies for Saturday's 800 final.
"Isolated, she would be very, very tough to beat," Calkins said, "particularly in the mile and two mile. But when you factor in all five events and the heat, you just don't know."
Boschan also is taking a cautious approach.
"I know I can do really good, but I don't want to say I can win," Boschan said. "Right now I'm thinking I can maybe get top three, something like that. I'll just see how it comes."
That was the same mindset she took to the cross country championships, and the same humbleness she carries on a regular basis.
"For as good as she is, all these running events that she does, she's the least cocky person you could ever meet," Wiley said. "She definitely does not have a big head."
Regardless of how she performs, she has won over her classmates and teammates.
"She's amazing as a friend, and her personality, she's super nice," said Chaffee freshman Ellie Sigman, who has participated in all three sports with Boschan and will compete in four events at the state meet. "She's good in school, good in running, great person. She's the whole package."
As evidence to the relationship Boschan has established with her classmates and community, she is not planning a quick exit to Germany, which she has not seen since August. She plans to celebrate her 17th birthday in Chaffee on June 6, and will not depart until June 24.
"It's really sad. I cannot believe that it's already over. The time went by so fast," Boschan said. "I remember when I came, and I was like, 'Well, I have 10 months, a year, that I am here,' and now it is almost over. It's sad because I really like it here."
Boschan said Germany does not have college athletics for women, and said she would like to return to the United States as a college runner after her final two years of high school in Berlin.
"I won't forget all the people I met and my host family," Boschan said. "I will miss everything probably. Like Berlin, it's a big city with 3 million people, and now Chaffee is 3,000 people. That's like so different. I'll miss it a lot."