Sports

Mercer Island's Choe plays in lacrosse world championships with Korean National team

Michael Choe led the Korean National team in scoring during the lacrosse world championships. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Michael Choe led the Korean National team in scoring during the lacrosse world championships.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

For Island resident Michael Choe, the past few months have been like a lacrosse game — non-stop action. Choe recently graduated from Mercer Island High School, helped guide the varsity lacrosse team to the state semifinals and played for the Korean National team in the world lacrosse championships in Coquitlam, British Columbia.

“It was a good experience,” said Choe. “It was fun meeting a lot of new people, and I feel like I learned a lot more about the game. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Choe received the invitation to try out for the team last July.

“[Mercer Island High School lacrosse coach] Ian [O’Hearn] knew people who introduced me to the National team coaches,” said Choe. “It is a developing team, and we are in the a lower division from the U.S. team, but it is still really exciting.”

The Korean team was small, with just 18 players and finished with a record of 1-5 during the event. The Korean team played in a division just below the United States U-19 team that was on Mercer Island last month to play a team of Western All-Stars, including former Islanders Greg Mahony, Adam Brazg and Chris Taylor.

“We only had about 50 or 60 people watching our game, compared to nearly full stadiums for some of the U.S. team’s games,” said Choe. “But I am happy with how I performed.”

The Korean team was smaller than most of the other teams, making it difficult to stay competitive. Despite that challenge, Choe finished with 14 goals for the tournament, seventh-most of all the players in his division.

“We only have one or two subs,” said Choe. “The coaches told us to get our endurance up.”

Although Choe grew up in the United States, he is proud to be able to represent his Korean heritage in the tournament.

“I enjoy getting to show some Korean national pride,” said Choe. “It is in my blood.”

Lacrosse is not the most popular sport in Korea, and most of the players live in the United States. Choe spent 24 days during June in Korea, meeting his teammates and preparing for the tournament. Choe is no stranger to Korea as many of his mother’s family members live in the country.

Choe picked up lacrosse in eighth grade but began taking it seriously as a sophomore in high school.

“I really wanted to just try something new,” said Choe. “I had a lot of great people to motivate me.”

One of those people was his father, Kang Choe.

“My dad helped push me,” said Choe. “He is a big believer in working hard. He would go to work, come home, practice with me and go back to work.”

That motivation not only led to a spot on the Korean National team but gained Choe a spot as an Islander co-captain during the spring. The bar was set high for the Islanders this season as the varsity team had competed in the state finals each of the previous seven years.

“We had the least number of upperclassmen this season in a long time, and I am proud of how we did,” said Choe.

Choe is set to go to Andrews University, but he is hoping that a bigger school will notice his performance during the tournament so that he can play in college.

“I am hoping to get a late recruit to a school that has a team,” said Choe.

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