Graduating senior Samuel Lena is nothing if not well-rounded — a skilled trumpet player in the Samohi Band, he spent the last two fall sports seasons competing on the boys varsity soccer team (making it to the 2021 CIF finals), while also earning high enough academic marks to be admitted to the Cal Poly Pomona Kellogg Honors College come fall.
On top of everything else, the young Santa Monican is getting ready to take his skills as a forward for the Samohi Vikings and use them on the international stage at the upcoming Maccabi Games in Israel.
Lena called the competition “kind of the Jewish Olympics” — it features Jewish competitors from dozens of nations in a wide array of athletic competitions including, of course, soccer.
“I’m very proud to be able to participate, and the fact that I was selected … It’s crazy, in my opinion, that I can say I’m, like, one of the top Jewish athletes in the entire country, for my age,” Lena said. “To represent Santa Monica is a very big deal, and I hope I’ll live up to everyone’s expectations.”
Lena’s soccer career — which began around the age of three — will not end with the Maccabi Games. He signed on to compete on the Cal Poly men’s soccer team as a winger. In college, he plans to pursue a career in civil engineering.
“Playing a sport and doing school teaches you discipline and time management like crazy,” Lena said. He added: “It gives you preparation for the future, so that when you’re dealt a bad card, you know how to face it. You know how to pick yourself back up, because you’ve already dealt with so many things like that … it teaches you lessons of how to care for yourself.”
Will Barker will pursue professional dream in Madrid
Weeks after crossing the stage at Samohi, Will Barker will be lifting off on a flight to Spain, en route to what he hopes will become a professional soccer career. Barker, who has been playing soccer since age five, will be playing soccer for Sporting Club Madrid in La Liga, the Spanish football league, while also attending classes at St Louis University in Madrid.
When it comes to balancing academics, a social life and the game, Barker said it would be no issue.
“I just want to play as much as I can,” Barker said. “I’ll find time to study and to socialize, but if I’m playing soccer every day, I’ll be happy no matter how busy I am.”
Barker, who was born in London but raised in Santa Monica, said he feels prepared to transition from high school life into Spain, and isn’t fazed by his lack of Spanish language skills.
“I’m just excited to dive into a new city,” Barker said, adding he has so far visited 25 countries and feels connected to Europe.
For now, Barker has signed a one-year contract, but has set his goals much higher.
When asked if he was hoping to go pro, his answer was conclusive: “Definitely.”