LYNNWOOD — Last spring Hannah Taylor was near the end of her junior year at Meadowdale High School, where she was an outstanding player on the Mavericks girls soccer team and an otherwise ordinary teenager.
Since then her life has been anything but ordinary.
In the space of about nine months, and through a remarkable series of circumstances, Taylor has become an international athlete and world traveler. Though she is a lifetime resident of Edmonds, her father is Canadian and she has dual citizenship. A year ago that fact was brought to the attention of Canadian Soccer Association officials, and in the spring they invited her to a one-week camp in Vancouver, British Columbia.
At that point, the whirlwind began.
In July, while her friends were working on their summer tans, Taylor was in Weifang, China, for a tournament with Canada’s U-17 team. From late September to mid-October, and with the new school year at Meadowdale in full swing, she traveled with the same team to Amman, Jordan, for the U-17 World Cup. Later in the fall, and with Thanksgiving approaching, she went with Canada’s U-20 team to a pre-camp in Brisbane, Australia, and then on to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, for the U-20 World Cup.
All that was memorable, but something even more special was still to come.
Last month she went to Los Angeles for a camp with the Canadian senior national team, and on Feb. 4 she was in Vancouver’s BC Place stadium for a game against Mexico. Her teammates, including Canadian star Christine Sinclair, were many of the same players that won bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
Though the 17-year-old Taylor did not play vs. Mexico, a 3-2 Canada victory, the experience was no less thrilling. “I had goosebumps during the national anthem, and when we were walking out into the stadium, and then during warmups and postgame,” she said. “Every moment was special.
“There were 22,000-plus people there, and I’ve never been part of a team that had that many fans watching. It was unreal being able to warm up in front of them, and then to cheer on my teammates and sing the national anthem with my arms wrapped around them. Every moment of it was really cool.”
Who would’ve thought all this could happen to a girl from Edmonds?
“It’s pretty hard to describe or even to put it into words,” she said. “There’ve been highs and there’ve been lows, and it hasn’t been easy, but it’s been super-fun. I haven’t wanted to come home from any of my trips because I was having so much fun. It’s just been amazing.”
“She’s had quite the opportunity in a short period of time,” said Greg Taylor, her father. “I think all along we believed she could do this, but who’d ever really think it’d be possible? You want the best for your kid, and in her case that best has been amazing.”
As a native of Canada himself, he said, “for her to be able to put on a Canadian jersey, you get tears in your eyes every time you think about it.”
Yes, there have been sacrifices. Since September she has missed more days of school than she has attended, which requires her to keep up with her studies while traveling. She communicates with her teachers via email when she is out of town, and then scrambles to make up tests when she is home.
“Obviously it’s been hard being away from my friends and missing some big school events, like homecoming,” she said. “But I wouldn’t trade what I’ve been doing for anything. I’d say it’s been 100 percent worth it.”
Playing soccer at an elite level is rewarding in itself, of course, but doing so while wearing the uniform of your country — or in Taylor’s case, one of her two countries — makes it particularly special.
Being on a national team “is the highest level you can get to as an athlete,” she said, “and being able to do that is incredible. … It means a lot to wear (a Canadian) jersey. You’re representing your country, and there’s a ton of people supporting you, watching you and rooting for you.”
Though Taylor had to forego her senior season at Meadowdale because she was away so much, her college plans are already in place. On Feb. 1, While she was in Vancouver, she signed a national letter-of-intent to play at the University of Oregon, where she expects to study either business or engineering.
After college she hopes to play soccer professionally while continuing to represent Canada, including perhaps at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France and at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Playing in the World Cup and the Olympics “would be the highest honor I could possibly get,” she said. “Every time you put on the (Canada) jersey there’s nothing like it, so it’d be phenomenal.”
But just as Taylor never could have imagined what would happen in the last year, so she likewise cannot predict the future.
“You never know what’s going to happen next,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen next in the past nine months, but then I was going to China and then Jordan and then Papua New Guinea. I’ve learned you have to prepare for what’s next even if you don’t know what’s next, and that you also have to believe in yourself.
“Like I’ve learned in the program,” she said, “you just have to become a better you every day. That’s how you reach success.”