Cascade boys swim team has foreign flavor

They’re the big men on campus, even though they’re just 16- and 17-years old, and almost 5,000 miles from home.

Three foreign exchange students from Sweden, Denmark and Brazil have traveled to Cascade High School in Everett for a study abroad opportunity and decided to join the Bruins’ swim team.

Call it the international medley relay.

Erik Tornquist, Victor Haurholm and Arthur Lebarbenchon are studying for a year in America. The students decided that while they were here they were going to embrace all aspects of the American school experience, including joining the swim team.

“I think they’re getting the real high school experience,” said Cascade head coach Eric Smith. “They’re here trying everything out. They’re great sports. I’d want to do the same thing if I was in Denmark or Sweden.”

They’re not the first foreign students that Smith has coached in his nine years at Cascade. Smith says they are Nos. 3, 4 and 5. And the best part for the Bruins: they’re contributing to the team.

“(Haurholm) has qualified for state in relay,” Smith said. “He’s gonna go to districts and he’s going to score a lot of points for the team. He’s like a gift from nowhere.”

Well, not exactly nowhere. Haurholm hails from a suburb of Copenhagen, Denmark, 4,826 miles from Seattle. Tornquist flew 4,695 miles from Gothenburg, Sweden. The longest journey to get to high school went to Lebarbenchon, who travelled about 6,755 miles from Curitiba, Brazil.

All three, who regularly hang out and have become great friends, say the extensive travelling was well worth it.

“It’s different from what I’m used to,” said Haurholm, who arrived on Aug. 11. “I saw all these — what is it? — skyscrapers. You don’t see that in Denmark.”

“People here are so different,” Tornquist, 17, said. “They’re much more open-minded. I talked to so many people the first week.”

According to Smith, they’re still talking to a lot of people.

“Those guys are pretty gregarious. Everybody in the school knows them,” he said.

However, the guys don’t know everybody in the school. Yet.

“You’re walking and people say, ‘Hey Eric,’ ‘Hey Arthur.’ It’s really creepy that they know our names,” Lebarbenchon, 16, said.

The guys are starting to get used to it. School is very different from what they’re accustomed to in their respective countries, but they all enjoy it. However, some of them have different strategies for school.

“I like the school,” Haurholm, 16, said. “You get to know all your friends.”

“I chose pretty easy classes,” Tornquist said, “to spend a lot of time with people.

“I’d rather see people than do homework.”

“I’m totally the opposite,” said Lebarbenchon, who says he’s using this trip to “scout” prospective colleges. “When I get home I have six months and then I have to take an SAT. I have to learn something.”

“I’m not learning anything,” said a laughing Tornquist.

That’s not entirely true. Smith says Tornquist, who got to America on Sept. 1, has dropped six seconds from his initial 100-yard breaststroke time.

“He’s one of the top three breaststrokes on our team,” the Cascade coach said. “He wants to qualify for districts in the 100 breaststroke.”

Haurholm, who wants to be a policeman, has been swimming for the past 10 years. Prior to the season, Tornquist and Lebarbenchon had little swimming experience.

“I know how to swim, but not more than that,” Tornquist said.

“Swim lessons when I was young,” said Lebarbenchon.

Smith says both have improved immensely. Lebarbenchon has cut 24 seconds from the first time he swam the 100 freestyle.

“He’s amazing,” he said. “You can tell the difference. … His first day of practice was not a pleasant experience. He was choking on water.”

The son of Haurholm’s host family swims on the team, and told Smith the Denmark student was coming.

“He came in with kind of a skill set,” said Smith. “In Denmark it’s more of a recreational thing. This is probably the first time he’s trained consistently five days a week in his life.

“He’s qualified for districts in pretty much everything he’s swam. He’s the toughest kid I’ve seen.”

The other guys on the swim team have taken a liking to the foreigners, and have helped them out both in the pool and the school.

“Swim teams are generally pretty tightly knit and these guys make it more so,” said Smith.

“The guys on the swim team are very nice,” said Haurholm. “After two days we all knew each other.”

“They don’t treat you like you’re different,” echoed Lebarbenchon.

When pressed, Haurholm admits he prefers life in Denmark. He says school here is more rigorous.

“I like it and am having an awesome time,” said the Dane, who admits there is a “Scandinavian rivalry” with Sweden’s Tornquist. “But I like Denmark a little better. You’re more free. School’s a lot more strict here.”

Lebarbenchon has to go home at the end of the summer, but plans to return to America in the future to study chemical engineering. He’s been to the U.S. once before, visiting Disneyworld a few years ago. This time around he’s doing and seeing as much as possible. The Brazilian has plans to visit Whistler Resort, as well as Los Angeles.

“I really like it here cause I can do a lot of things that I don’t normally do at home,” he said. “Like skiing. It’s so different.”

Tornquist, who has the same host family as Lebarbenchon, sees a funny trend in his classes.

“We have higher rates of English than most of the Americans in class,” Tornquist said.

The Swedish soccer fan hopes to become a pilot one day. His reasoning makes a lot of sense considering his current situation.

“I want to travel,” Tornquist said. “That’s why I’m here. I just want to see something new.”

Haurholm has gotten to see Lincoln City, Ore. when he went with his host family for Thanksgiving. He loved every part of his holiday.

“Seeing an American tradition and the awesome landscape – it was just beautiful,” said Haurholm.

The experience was such a good one, that Haurholm hopes to take his parents back to Lincoln City when they come to visit toward the end of his stay.

Lebarbenchon, who’s been in the States since Sept. 9, was pleasantly surprised with one aspect of American culture.

“I like how things are cheap here,” Lebarbenchon said. He says he’s bought clothes, a camera, a laptop and an XBox while he’s been here. He mentioned fast food also being significantly cheaper than back in Brazil.

Fast food actually played an important role in Tornquist’s decision to do cross country in the fall (both Haurholm and Lebarbenchon joined him).

“I was in New York and started eating so much crappy food, and thought, ‘I need to run,’” he said.

After doing cross country the three thought it would be fun to join the swimming team. Even though they are from three different countries, the friends are constantly together. They even agree about the best part of the trip to America.

“Getting to know people from all around the world. Hopefully, we’ll stay in contact,” Haurholm said.

“It’s a great opportunity to build a network here, which is worth a lot in the future,” said Tornquist. “You grow a lot as a person when you’re away from your family.”

“What they said,” Lebarbenchon said.

Talk to us

More in Sports

Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III celebrates after scoring against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of Sunday’s game in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Grading the Seahawks in their 37-27 win over the Panthers

Seattle turns in a solid all-around performance in front of the 2013 Super Bowl winners.

Arlington’s defense stuffs Ferndale running back Talan Bungard on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Arlington steamrolls Ferndale in 3A Wesco North showdown

The Eagles light up offense in the first half, finish business to earn a 46-14 win.

Lake Stevens High School head football coach Tom Tri hoists his team’s championship trophy during a community parade and celebration Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
The Herald’s 2022-23 Man of the Year in Sports: Tom Tri

The Lake Stevens coach guided the Vikings to Snohomish County’s first large classification football state title in more than 30 years.

West Linn’s Ryan Vandenbrink (23) runs with the ball during a football game between Lake Stevens and West Linn at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. West Linn won, 49-30. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Turnovers cost Lake Stevens in loss to Oregon power West Linn

The Vikings’ run of 35 straight home wins in the regular season ends in an interstate showdown of big-school state champions.

Marysville Pilchuck’s Christian Van Natta lifts the ball in the air to celebrate a turnover during the game against Marysville Getchell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22

Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Lynnwood teammates mob senior Abbie Orr (4) after her impressive dig led to a point against Jackson during a volleyball match Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, at Lynnwood High School in Bothell, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood volleyball team continues rise to prominence

After ending a 20-year state drought last season, the Royals are surging again and have vaulted to No. 3 in Class 3A in the new WSVCA poll.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) scrambles up field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Seahawks set to host Panthers, honor past while focused on present

Seattle will honor the 10-year anniversary of its only Super Bowl championship during Sunday’s game.

Jackson High’s Ben Lee lunges to get to the ball against Kamiak on Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022, at the Kamiak Tennis Courts in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Prep boys tennis season preview: Players and teams to watch

A look at the area’s top athletes and teams on the tennis court this fall.

Fall prep sports roundup.
Prep roundup for Saturday, Sept. 23

Also, Friday’s non-football prep results.

Most Read