By Brian Bateman
When Dirk Nowitzki arrived in Dallas in 1998, the 7-foot German power forward brought a bit of German attitude to the Lone Star State.
Seventeen years later, a group of five Jewish Texans are headed back to Germany to show off a bit of state pride.
The students, of whom four are from the Dallas area, will compete in the European Maccabi Games from July 27 to Aug. 5 in Berlin.
It’s a wide range of competitors from the Lone Star State, including soccer (Chayse Bauer, Frisco Wakeland), field hockey (Rachel Feig, Houston Kinkaid/Boston University), swimming (Hailey Jenkins, Frisco), dressage (Katie Resnick, Dallas/Texas A&M) and chess (Samuel Waranch, Dallas, Greenhill/Oberlin).
“It’s a great chance to meet all the other girls all over the entire world. That just doesn’t ever happen,” Bauer said.
More than 2,000 Jewish athletes from 36 countries will c
ompete in 19 events. The United States will send 168 athletes from 26 states on 20 teams. Only eight other states are sending more than Texas.
For Rachel Feig and Waranch, it’s a return to international competition. Feig, a senior at Boston University from Houston, played field hockey in the Maccabiah Games two years ago in Israel. That gave her a good idea of what to expect in Berlin, but she’s expecting a few changes as well.
“It’s going to be shorter. Israel was three and a half weeks,” she said. “This is going to be different because we’re not going to have enough time to get to know each other.”
The U.S. field hockey team is roughly half the size as it was in Israel, and the team will be playing on turf.
“In Israel, we played on grass. Other teams struggled with it, but we did OK because of lot of high school teams (in the U.S.) are on grass.”
The Americans will face stiff challenges from Argentina, Holland and the host country.
Waranch is one of four people from the U.S. participating in the chess tournament. He competed in the 2013 Israel Maccabiah Games, where he said he finished around the middle of the field.
Waranch, who will attend Oberlin College (Ohio) in the fall, has been on the national circuit recently, including Washington and New York this month, so the Greenhill graduate has a good feel for what’s coming: seven rounds of exhausting chess.
“It’s mental prep, but a hint of physical,” Waranch said. “You do a great deal of research to get mentally ready … but there’s a physical component. A lot of games last four, five, six hours.”
For those competing in team events, a condensed, intense practice schedule awaits them before the Games begin.
Bauer’s soccer team will meet in New Jersey before the flight, but won’t begin practice until arriving in Germany. That gives the team roughly two days of practice time before opening competition.
And for Bauer to learn what position she’ll play. The soon-to-be-senior at Wakeland plays center-mid for her high school and club team (D’Feeters). She’s hoping to stay there to “show my speed,” but is willing to play wherever necessary.
Feig hasn’t received her schedule yet, but expects it will be similar to her Israel plans.
“We’ll practice a few days before games. Practice in the morning. Travel in the afternoons. That’s how it was in Israel,” she said.
Seeing sights, too
For all of the athletes, travel and sightseeing is a big draw. Whether it’s the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, castles, or concentration camp memorials, these Texans are ready to take it all in.
“Understanding the culture there and the Jewish culture there,” Feig said of her motivation. “There’s such a rich culture. It will be good to see it firsthand.”
Jenkins said the U.S. delegation is planning a visit to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp the morning of the opening ceremonies.
Jenkins, who swims for ultra-competitive Frisco High School and the City of Plano Swimmers club squad, has met several teammates over social media and group chats, but won’t meet the team in person until traveling to Germany.
But in competitive swimming, traveling to meets means long trips and a variety of competitors — including a future Maccabi teammate.
“In Houston, one of the teammates from Arizona was there,” she said. “All the swimmers have been talking. We all kind of know each other.”
Jenkins, who swam in the 2012 Memphis Maccabi Games, excels in the butterfly, but will swim in freestyle, medley relays and the backstroke in Berlin Olympic pool.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to get to swim in the pool where the Olympics once took place,” she said. Jenkins attends Adat Chaverim.
Resnick is one of four American riders competing in dressage, a form of equestrian. The TJP profiled Resnick and her sorority sister Amanda Katsman, who is also competing, in a June 25 story. Dressage competition begins Aug. 3.
Unlike the first-time competitors, Feig already knows how the experience can pay off later. Field hockey’s epicenter resides in the Northeast, and in her college years, she’s met and played against many of her Maccabiah teammates.
That’s allowed her to both make lifelong friends and study her future opponents.
“I got to play the following season at Boston, and many games were against them,” she said. “I’m grateful for such an opportunity.”