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The City Journals

New coach takes over the defending Utah charter school boys’ state champions

Mar 07, 2018 02:52PM ● By Carl Fauver

The American International School of Utah boys soccer team is back to defend its state title. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

A former Baylor University soccer player – in his first year teaching at American International School of Utah (AISU) – is now in charge of a second year boys soccer program that finished on top of the pile last spring, in its very first year of existence.

“Their previous coach took a job somewhere else, and when I interviewed they asked me if I could coach soccer,” said new head coach Mark Hutter. “I told them ‘yes,’ and here we are.”

Last school year was the first for AISU to field any athletic teams, after parents and students began pressing administrators to offer extracurricular athletics. In that first year, both the girls volleyball and boys soccer teams claimed USSA titles.

USSA stands for Utah Schools Sports Association, the governing body for all charter school athletic teams that do not compete under the more widely known Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA). That’s where nearly all Utah high school teams compete, including Murray High.

There could never be a league or playoff game between the Murray Spartans and AISU Dragons, even though the schools are just two miles apart.

“It’s been fun getting to know the boys,” Hutter added. “We fielded a fall soccer team and a winter indoor team. But the official season begins now, with spring play.”

Tryouts for the AISU boys soccer team were held February 26-28, after the deadline for this story.  Because he wasn’t with the program a year ago, Hutter wasn’t sure how many of last year’s championship team members would be back.

But after working with them in the fall and winter, Hutter does know a few of the key players he’ll have in the lineup.

“I know of at least two critical returning players,” the coach said. “Senior William Liddle is a returning team captain and another senior, Raul Rivas is also a key returner. Then we also have a couple of sophomore international students who should help a lot, with Dennis Yu from China and Edgar Manu from Ghana.”

Here in Utah, Manu now lives nearly 7,000 miles west of Ghana, in Africa. Yu is nearly the same distance east of his hometown.

“I lived in Chongqing, China until just last August when I moved here to live with my uncle,” Yu said. “I like Coach Hutter because he makes soccer more relaxing and fun. My coaches in China were really strict.”

Another sophomore from China, Alex He, also hopes to help the AISU team.

“I moved from Kunming, China almost two years ago,” he said. “Last year I attended American Heritage School (American Fork) and played on the high school team (as a freshman). I like Coach Hutter and look forward to playing for him this spring.”

“I’m sure we will have several other international students on the team,” Hutter added. “But I won’t know the exact makeup until we have tryouts.”

When he’s not on the soccer field, Hutter is AISU’s Computer Science Department Chair. This is just his second year of teaching, after spending last year at the Challenger School in Sandy.

“I was working in a different field when I first moved to Utah in 2006, primarily for the skiing,” the coach said. “I learned to ski as a kid in West Virginia. And in college we used to drive 18 hours to get to Colorado. But it’s true what they say, Utah does have the best snow of all. The first time I skied here I said, ‘Whoa, what have I been missing?’ That’s when I began planning my move here.”

Hutter has skied every major Wasatch Front resort and says he loves the easy access and the lighter, fluffier snow.

In addition to coaching the AISU boys’ team Hutter also has his hands full coaching his 5-year-old daughter’s “Bumblebee” team in a West Jordan youth league.

Due to a scheduling quirk, the American International School of Utah boys soccer team is not scheduled to play a league game until March 28, while several of their league opponents are starting a full two weeks earlier. Hutter said he will have his work cut out for him, doing more than just picking the defending state champion team members.

“I’ll have to call around to line up a few practice games,” he said. “I don’t want our team to go in cold, playing a team that already has two or three games under its belt.”