Sports

Rugby: Fresno 16-year-old playing for Team USA

Mikaele “Mika” Kruse doesn’t talk much about his game, deferring instead to what he does on the field.

The 16-year-old junior at Bullard High has not only aided an undefeated start for the school’s composite rugby club team in the Central Valley League, he also earned the opportunity to play for a U.S. national team and is currently on a three-game European tour.

The all-around athlete grew up playing football, basketball and track, but by age 12 discovered that rugby was his passion. A friend invited him to play with the Bullard Youth Rugby Club and the rest, as he said, is history.

“I just kept coming out,” Kruse said. “That first time I had a lot of fun.”

Kruse, who also plays safety and wide receiver for the Knights varsity football team, had stellar campaigns with the Bullard youth and high school teams.

Last year, he was named a Northern California All-Star. It was while he was with that all-star team that the 6-foot, 185-pound fly-half and center impressed national team scouts at the Pacific Northwest Regional in June. He earned an invite to the USA Rugby Boys High School All-America winter camp in Arizona a few months later.

Surviving competition among a field of 130. Kruse was one of 28 players named to the USA under-17 team for the trip to Europe.

“He has skill, power and speed,” Bullard rugby coach Patrick Quan said. “Mika loves rugby and tries hard. He’s a great example of hard work paying off.”

Kruse and his U.S. teammates arrived in Paris a week ago. They played their first match Tuesday, losing to the host France U-17s 63-6 in Marcoussis, the site of the French National Rugby Training Center.

Two games remain against the Belgium U-17s in Liege on Saturday and again Tuesday, with local followers of Kruse able to track results online through the Twitter account of All-American Rugby @aarugby.

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