Zaanan Bane has never been on a plane before.

But this July, he’ll spend 15 hours on one for a trip Down Under.

Bane, a sophomore at Pendleton High School, was invited to participate in Down Under Sports — a program in which American high school athletes travel to Australia to compete in sports, such as basketball, football, golf, cross country, volleyball, and track and field.

Their mission statement is to “promote the growth, development, and self-esteem of the individual athlete through sport,” and to build relationships that “bridge the gap of both distance and time through mutual competition.”

On their off time, they’ll get to tour Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Bane will be competing in the triple jump.

“I’m excited more than I am nervous,” said Bane, 15. “It sounds like one of those once in a lifetime opportunities.”

The program selected Bane based on his “overall performance” in PHS’ track and field team. For his freshman season, he jumped 40 feet 6 inches at the state tournament’s triple jump event. He ended the season as the highest-ranking freshman in the Oregon 5A division, and was the No. 2 freshman statewide.

“I have never coached a freshman who jumped over 40 feet, and I’ve been coaching for over 20 years,” said PHS triple and long jump coach Bill Aney. “(Zaanan) is a really workable kid. He doesn’t have an attitude; he just wants to come out and work hard. He does what we tell him to do, and a little bit more.”

Bane said he hopes this trip will open up even more opportunities for him down the line — after high school, he wants to compete at the collegiate level, and is considering the University of Oregon and Portland State, among others.

“There’s a lot of scouts down there,” he said of Down Under Sports. “I want to compete at Division I. I’ve been told I can do it.”

Strong roots

Bane isn’t the only one in his family who has competed at an international level. His mother, Leslie Rosenberg, who works at Robert Pratt’s dentist office in Pendleton, sprinted at the World Sports Exchange in Barcelona when she was a junior.

And it doesn’t end there — cousin Ammarae Broncheau played basketball for the American International Sports Teams, Inc. in Austria in 2014. She’s currently a guard for the women’s team at Blue Mountain Community College.

“As a mom, you’re just super proud to see your son continuing that legacy,” Rosenberg said. “Our family motto is, ‘We’re as strong as our roots.’ It’s great to celebrate that we all have this in common.”

Rosenberg remembers her experience with the Worlds Sports Exchange as an eye-opening one, and is excited for her son to see the world like she did.

“It was absolutely incredible,” she said. “It gave me the travel bug. It made me realize that there’s much more to the world than Pendleton.”

And when Bane received his invitation last fall, he said it was a no-brainer. He knew he had to follow in his family’s footsteps.

“The main thing my family told me was, ‘You need to go. There’s nothing like it,’” he said.

“I’m not just representing Oregon; I’m representing Pendleton.”

Bane’s flight departs on Sunday, July 7, and he’ll return on Wednesday, July 17. But before he can board, he’ll need to raise some funds — $4,600 to be exact. The first $2,000 is due on March 1.

The family has set up a donation account at the Columbia State Bank under “Down Under Donations,” and another at downundersports.com/ZUK-DPO. Their deadline is Wednesday, May 1.

“Between his athletic schedules, word of mouth is the only thing we have the time for,” Rosenberg said. “I’m excited for (Zaanan) to represent our city.”

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