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Jeff Black has never lived in the United States. That didn’t stop him from setting his sights on the peak of American athletics and academia.

After a childhood spent in DODDS schools in Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom, Black is now bound for the Ivy League. The Alconbury senior took an official recruiting visit to Cornell University in March; he received an offer to play Division I soccer for the Big Red just hours before boarding his return flight to England.

“I committed right then and there,” Black said.

Ivy League schools do not offer traditional athletic scholarships, but Black is in line for a financial aid package that should considerably defray costs.

Black boasts a body of work worthy of the Ivy League both on the field and in the classroom.

He has been a first-team All-Europe selection in each of his first three seasons and has played in local leagues in three countries, most recently with historic English club team St. Ives Town FC. He’ll need to tap into that high-level experience at Cornell, which finished last season at No. 20 in the NSCAA/Adidas Top 25 rankings.

Black owns a 4.0 grade point average and is a member of the National Honor Society. He plans to major in marine biology at Cornell.

The versatile midfielder said he had some level of interest from schools including the University of Washington and Gonzaga. At one point, he had all but decided on attending the Coast Guard Academy. But when Cornell coaches responded favorably to his submitted action clips, Black saw an opportunity to both compete and study at the highest level.

“Academics is really what drove me finding Cornell,” Black said. “I didn’t really look for any place because of athletics.”

College is more than sports and studying, however. While Black’s international upbringing has offered experiences most of his new peers won’t have had, it has also removed him from the social mainstream of American young adulthood.

“I’m excited, but at the same time I am nervous,” Black said. “I’ve never lived over there before.”

His stateside visits have created some awkward exchanges. Many people he encountered expected him to speak with a pronounced English accent, he said, failing to understand that he attended an American high school with American classmates.

His four days at Cornell, however, buoyed his confidence. The soccer team was a close, supportive group, he said, mirroring the insular social experience he currently enjoys at Alconbury’s small campus.

“When I got there and spoke with the players, they have a pretty tightly-knit community within themselves,” Black said. “That made me feel better about it.”

Black’s family, meanwhile, has its own feelings to work through. Black’s father, Jeff Black Sr., is also head soccer coach at Alconbury, and will remain in his post when his son leaves for Cornell. The elder Black said his son “has the best of both worlds ahead of him,” a fitting reward for years of early-morning workouts and year-round soccer built around an unflinching attention to academics.

“He has always been extremely motivated and determined,” Black Sr. said. “He set out on a goal many years back and made it happen.”

As his senior year winds down, the younger Black is following a Cornell-prescribed workout plan. He’ll have to complete a physical assessment before joining the program for preseason workouts in August. Then he’ll move into his dorm room in Ithaca, N.Y., the first stateside address of his life.

When he last stood on that campus just a few weeks ago, Black knew that it would not be the last time.

“This is where I want to be,” he recalled saying.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes


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