By Jeremy Balan
For those who follow San Francisco high school sports, a school with “International” in its name is not a foreign idea at all, but the newest athletic program in the City may embody the essence of the word the best.
In just its third year of existence and first year on its own campus, San Francisco International High School will be fielding varsity sports programs for the 2011-2012 season.
Previously located on the campus of Mission High School, SFI now resides on York Street on the east side of the City and its students come from around the world, all learning English and receiving their first high school experience in the United States.
“All of the high school students that have come to us have been in the country no longer than three years,” said SFI athletic director Jose Urista, who was Mission’s wrestling coach prior to his job at SFI. “They are English-learners, all of them. That’s what makes us International. We have kids from all over the globe and they all have to commingle. It forces all of the kids to not only speak English, but also forces them to come together and work together.”
With around 240 students, the Huskies will feature boys soccer, cross country and girls volleyball in the fall, boys basketball and wrestling in the winter, and track and field, badminton and girls soccer in the spring.
All sports will be a part of the CIF-San Francisco Section, and most will begin playing in the Academic Athletic Association except for wrestling and boys basketball, which will play only non-league schedules.
“We are pleased to welcome SFI,” said CIF-SF commissioner Don Collins. “[Urista] has worked for 12 months to prepare this school for athletics and will do a fine job. He will confront some challenges, as do we all. He and SFI will overcome them.”
For a school with such a small population (which will actually grow in upcoming years with a cap at 400 students), Urista knows there will challenges, especially due to the fact that they are jumping directly into varsity competition.
“It’s daunting and it’s scary, but at the same time, we’re proud,” Urista said. “We’re jumping in with both feet.”
Urista acknowledges some sports will struggle in the first year, but the Huskies may have a darkhorse contender in boys soccer, which will kick off Thursday against Marshall in the school’s first varsity event.
Juniors Osmar Chavez and Medhanie Berih will lead a talented soccer squad that they hope will challenge for a playoff spot.
“I’m confident we can make it to the playoffs, because we’ve been practicing and we know each other really well,” Berih said. “We also have a great coach.”
The junior class will not only be the first class of athletes, but also the first class graduating from the school. Both are sources of pride for the student athletes.
“It’s kinda cool, because we’re going the be the first and everyone’s going to remember us. That’s really exciting,” said junior cross country runner Katherine Hernandez. “This school has a lot of pride and we always try to represent the school the best we can.”
It will likely take an entire school year to evaluate SFI’s progress and success, but one thing is certain — the Huskies have no intention of being the AAA’s doormat.
“We’re taking baby steps, but we hope to contribute to the league as a worthy opponent,” Urista said. “We’re not just the new kid who is going to get beat up.”