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Mitchell High School senior kicker Hakon Gustafson Giaever kicks the ball for an extra point during a game earlier this season at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. Also pictured is senior Alex Herrick (14). (Sean Ryan/Republic)

MHS foreign exhange student Giaever embraces football experience

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MHS foreign exhange student Giaever embraces football experience
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Hakon Gustafson Giaever has always been interested in American football.

Before becoming a foreign exchange student at Mitchell High School, he watched the Super Bowl every year in his hometown, Bodo, Norway. It was the only televised football game he had growing up.

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“We only had the Super Bowl to watch,” Giaever said. “We got to stay up and watch it at 3 at night on a school night. I didn’t know a lot about it. The rules are really hard, so I had to get into it and watch a lot of it to understand it.”

The senior played soccer for 14 years but this year, he decided he wanted to embrace new things in his new home.

“It was more of a social thing, and I wanted to get to know more people,” said Giaever, whose host parents are Mark and Ralyna Schilling. “I wanted to try something new and hoped to be good at it or help out in some form. I figured it’d be fun and different.

“I was hoping to be the kicker but also hoping to be something else. Even though, I figured out pretty quickly that it would be rough. I got some heavy tackles and figured being the kicker would be great.”

He said he felt a lot of pressure to do well during the first weeks of practice with the Kernels, but coaches and teammates were optimistic about the addition to special teams.

“Any program would love to have someone who can solely focus on kicking,” Mitchell coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “I was excited and very pleased to have someone of his personality and character and also his ability and willingness to help our program.”

Senior and teammate Jon Jamison said Giaever quickly fit in with the team with his charismatic and relaxed personality.

“I was surprised when I heard he was here but excited because I heard he was a soccer player and hoped he’d help the team,” Jamison said. “I got to know him in practice as a player with an awesome leg, but outside of practice I got to know him and found out how cool he is.”

After being used to kicking a soccer ball for most of his life, Giaever said he had to adjust to kicking a ball that was “more like an egg.”

“It’s not like you’re kicking it into a soccer goal,” he said. “You’re trying to get it in the air and kick it far instead of placing it somewhere. I had to adjust a lot go get more power in it and work on the form of the kick.”

After making the adjustments and after finding his role, Giaever said his experience on the field ranks high on his list.

“It was a great feeling,” he said of kicking the ball through the uprights. “One of the best feelings I’ve ever had. It’s just you and the ball and you can do what you love to do. You just watch it go.”

After several weeks of practice, Giaever became the starting kicker for the Mitchell Kernels, who finished the season with 3-6. He made 17 of 19 PATs and six of 10 field goals, with his long from 29 yards out. Over the course of the season, he scored 35 points for Mitchell, which wrapped up its season in the first round of the Class 11AA playoffs after falling to Yankton on Oct. 31.

Giaever said he wouldn’t change his experiences, which have opened new opportunities for him, with the black and gold for anything.

“Personally, I got to know a lot of amazing personalities over the course of three or four months,” he said, adding sports in Norway are not school related. “We became a family and it was an amazing experience. I don’t know how to describe the Mitchell Kernels. I told them after the last game that they’ll always be in my Norwegian heart and I appreciated every single one of them.”

During the season, Giaever received a letter to participate in a showcase, which is hosted by KCKicking, on Dec. 7 in Kansas City, Mo. The showcase features some of the top football specialists in the region and hosts more than 100 athletes. Players earn ratings, as well as a ranking among other prospective kickers in their graduating class and the results are sent to more than 1,000 schools on all levels from Division I to junior college.

Gaiever is excited for the opportunity and has been considering staying in America for post high school education.

“I’ve thought a lot about it and took my ACT,” he said, adding he never would have thought about staying over here before football season got underway. “I thought I was going home and continuing my college education, but I got really close with a lot of players and love football. When I got that letter, I figured maybe this is my thing and this is how my life is supposed to be planned out.”

Jamison said he’s excited for his teammate’s opportunity to continue playing football and stay close to his new home.

“The way he put it was that if I couldn’t go to Norway, he’d have to stay here and take care of me,” he said. “I’m happy for him and everyone on our team loves him and hopes he stays.”

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Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.
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