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Ritchie has `a blast' on soccer trip

DON HUNT

Bryn Ritchie emerged as the king of Oregon high school soccer last fall and last weekend the South Medford High School senior was treated like royalty in Southern California.

Ritchie received an all-expenses paid trip to San Diego, where he was allowed to try out for the U-20 United States Junior Olympic team.

Ritchie, who at 18 was a year younger than most of the players, failed to make the cut. But he returned to Medford with a greater appreciation for how the United States treats its Olympic athletes.

They basically just spoil you, Ritchie said. I had a blast.

The moment Ritchie checked into the ARCO Center -- the Olympic training facility -- he had his palm print electronically scanned. For the remainder of his stay all he had to do when entering the facility or ordering dinner was punch in his individual code.

Four junior Olympic regional teams from around the country were invited to try out for the national team that will compete in the U-20 World Cup later this year. Ritchie was a member of the western regional squad that represented 11 states. He was the lone Oregon representative.

As it turned out, only four of the 80 players on the regional teams made the national squad because the other 16 slots were filled from a separate U-20 team that was also at the training site, Ritchie said.

Although Ritchie was on the outside looking in from the start, he believes his chances were further crippled by his soccer rustiness and his playing out of position.

A striker at South Medford, Ritchie played center fullback in San Diego. And he made the journey without having played soccer since he led South Medford to the Class 4A state championship in mid-November.

Ritchie, who was named the Oregon high school player of the year, has spent the last two months playing basketball for South Medford.

A lot of the guys down there play soccer year-round, Ritchie said.

Nonetheless, he did not feel overwhelmed. In matchups against the other regional teams, Ritchie's western club won two of three games.

Some of the guys were stronger and faster than me and a lot of them have a college season under their belts, Ritchie said. But I didn't feel out of place.