Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
Daniel Schuler runs faster than you and plays golf better than you, occasionally under par.
He has runway-model looks and got callbacks to act in a Disney movie.
He loves language, any language. He has basic fluency in French. Some of us might think it's fun to say things like "Pepe Le Pew" and "oui, oui." He's past that. He dabbles in others, too. He asked Spanish soccer teammates to speak their language to him because he likes to leave the comfort of his culture and visit others.
Oh, and he took Chinese. In the eighth grade. At night at a school he didn't even attend.
What kid does that?
"Someone who likes it," he says, adding that, yes, it sounds nerdy.
Nerd? Did you fret over finding a date to your prom? He went to two.
He does other things in pairs. He plays in two jazz bands, one at school, one with friends. His specialty is drums, but he also plays the guitar and piano and is fiddling with the ukulele, which, it's suggested, would be great for the Islands.
He points out his ancestry, on his mother's side, is Hawaiian. Of course. And Swiss on his father's.
His faith is not lost in all this. He doesn't smother others with it, but he gives glory to God. And he thanks his parents and his teachers and his coaches and anyone else who has helped shape him.
Daniel Schuler is "» The Most Interesting Kid in the World.
OK, that's hyperbole. But maybe this is how The Most Interesting Man in the World got started.
Schuler is a senior at North Medford High and, as one might expect, he is getting the absolute most out of his final high school days. On Tuesday, he won the Southwest Conference golf championship. Today in district track, he'll run on both Black Tornado relay teams that have state-meet aspirations.
If all goes well, next week will be more of the same. State golf, followed by state track.
Piet Voskes, the track coach, has never had a golfer on his team.
Kevin Klabunde, the golf coach, says, "I'm not sure it would work out that well if it wasn't for how conscientious he is. He does a good job managing his time."
Schuler needs to, given the number of irons he has in fires.
"He very easily could have spent his senior having a great golf season," says Voskes, "and just kind of finishing. He didn't do that. He likes a challenge. In his own head, he wanted to see if he could do both, and he has, at a very high level."
As a kid, Schuler played all manner of sports. That funneled to soccer and golf in high school, and his goal was to earn a Division I scholarship in the latter.
His focus changed dramatically, however, two years ago when he was "discovered" and became a relative sensation in youth modeling and acting.
In a competition in New York put on by the International Modeling and Talent Association, Schuler, representing IMD Modeling of Medford, was one of 20 kids chosen from a pool of about 300 who would train for a few months, then be put on display for agents the world over. Ashton Kuchar, Josh Duhamel, Katie Holmes and Eva Longoria got their big breaks in the same competition.
When Schuler took home award after award at the big show — junior male model of the year, top swimwear model, runner-up most sought-after male, third most sought-after actor, etc. — it altered the course of his high school years.
"Never in a million years," says Schuler, "did I think that within three or four months, I would go to New York for a modeling competition and end up winning."
That's how it happens, sort of.
It starts with a "cute picture," says Scott Wine, a partner with The Osbrink Agency, a respected Universal City, Calif., outfit which specializes in young acting talent and signed Schuler a year ago.
"You go, 'What's their story?'" says Wine. "He came in and met with us and was really a ray of light. He had this big, brooding attitude and had no idea how good looking or charming he is. You never want someone who's cocky and knows it. He walks in the room and it's like a big, happy puppy. 'I'm here and what do you need me to do.'"
What Schuler, who also has a deal with Wilhelmina Models of Los Angeles, did was shift gears.
Workouts weren't designed for his athletic endeavors. Rather, they were to sculpt him. His eating habits improved and the blueprint of his future changed.
He juggled his high school studies and participation in soccer and golf with modeling trips to Miami, Los Angeles and Portland. He lived with his grandparents in Southern California last summer and commuted regularly to Hollywood or Beverly Hills.
He went on numerous casting calls.
"The thing about this industry is it takes a lot of those before you book something," says Schuler, "and it's that one thing you book that makes you want to keep going."
It was different in his case. On his first casting call, for a movie produced by Disney for the Disney Channel, he got called back, then was edged out for the lead role. The movie, "How to Build a Better Boy," is expected out in July and stars Marshall Williams instead of Schuler.
"It didn't go his way," says Wine, "but when you get that kind of attention off natural ability with no formal training, that's very promising."
When Schuler returned to the Rogue Valley for his senior year, he asked that his job load be reduced so he could focus on school.
"I'm trying to really enjoy my last months here and living like a kid and enjoying all my friends," he says, "before I have to start acting my age."
Schuler comes across as quiet and shy around adults as he warms up to them. That is not necessarily who he is.
When he was in New York, he chatted up whomever he could. Better to have friends from far away places while standing in an audition line than to clam up and stress out, he says.
"I'm a little more cautious around adults," says Schuler, "but I'm very, very loud. I have a lot of friends who can attest to that. I'm a weird kid. When I'm around my friends, I couldn't care less what I do. I do have a filter as far as respect goes, but I'm a guy. I like talking to people. When I was younger, I would talk incessantly without knowing when to stop. Now I can kind of pick up on when someone's done with it."
So putting himself out there this spring wasn't a stretch.
The last time Schuler ran track was in the eighth grade. He was one of the fastest kids around.
He sent Voskes a text message last winter, asking if the coach remembered who he was and could he try to do both track and golf.
"In the eighth grade, everyone knew him," says Voskes. "We knew exactly who he was."
Schuler hadn't trained before his first track practice. He had endurance developed through soccer, but his fast-twitch muscles for track were rusty. Still, there were immediate signs he could help the Black Tornado sprint crew.
"We were extremely surprised," says Voskes. "He was a gift. We had three talented individuals for both relays but did not have a fourth. He was a gift, no question, just because of his personality and his physical traits."
He teams with Michael Wilkins, Josh Hansen and Aaron Browne-Moore on both relays, and they've become a family of their own, says Voskes. They rank second in the Southwest Conference in the 4x100-meter relay with a best of 43.31 seconds and third in the 4x400 at 3:27.02. They have the 10th-fastest times in Class 6A in each.
The quartet's bond is evident in the fun they have. For instance, there's the breakout, when teammates disperse from a huddle with a clap of hands and a unified chant. You'd think it might be "Black Tornado!" or "Go North!"
Nope, it's "Pimpin' ain't easy!" Or sometimes, "Bang, bang!"
"We do some random stuff," says Schuler. "That's another thing that keeps us so close. We're so chill about everything. We like to have fun and compete, that's what we do."
Schuler practices with both teams during the week, and works extra in track to make up for lost time.
Relay events require that each runner has confidence in the other, particularly for baton handoffs. Schuler has earned that from his running mates.
"He'll text me on weekends and ask for more (work)," says Voskes. "He's just as committed as everyone else."
Schuler has even become a team leader, constantly encouraging and congratulating teammates, says Voskes. Team captaincy is an arbitrary thing, he says, but Schuler has "naturally become that. It's really cool to see. It was a component of our track team that we didn't have. He's really a verbal individual."
Voskes found out just how verbal, just how incessantly Schuler can talk on the way to the Oregon Relays in Eugene a month ago. The newbie sat directly behind the coach and peppered him with track questions.
"He's a class act," says Voskes. "He's an inquisitive, curious kid. We're really fortunate we got one year with him because he's an awesome individual."
Klabunde has had Schuler all along and has seen the same work ethic, the same camaraderie with his golf teammates.
"He's a coach's dream to work with," says Klabunde. "He's so conscientious about needing to practice."
Competing in track "has been a really good thing for him," says Klabunde. "Sometimes when you focus just on golf, you can play too much and put too much pressure on yourself. Having him on the track team has really helped him even out and balance his focus."
Schuler, who qualified for state as a sophomore, has had a couple rounds of 70 this spring and threatened to go very low when he shot a 32 on the front nine recently at Rogue Valley Country Club.
The state tournament is Monday and Tuesday at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks.
Schuler had hoped for early start times so he could rush back Tuesday for his school's jazz concert, but the tee sheet didn't cooperate.
"He was going to have a couple drum solos," says Klabunde. "He was really bummed."
Chances are, he won't stay bummed for long. There's no time.
Schuler will shelve sports when he enters Santa Monica College in the fall. He'll take regular college courses, with an emphasis on French and international business, and he'll take advantage of being in the hub of casting calls, auditions and callbacks.
"We're really looking forward to having him out here full-time and developing him," says Wine. "He's got the full package and he's super bright. He's just a young leading man."
Perhaps one day, Schuler will be that most interesting man on the screen.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org