Winning Two State Titles with Some Help from Above
A relay team is made up of four runners, but at the South Dakota State Track Meet in Sioux Falls, Saturday (May 27), the overwhelming presence of a fifth team member propelled one school to a pair of emotional wins.
It all began with the Viborg-Hurley girl's medley relay team - senior Lexie Jensen, sophomore Holly Richards, senior Emily Bjerkaas and senior Kirsten Paetow - winning a state title in their event.
Twenty minutes later at Howard Wood Field, it was the Cougars' boy's medley relay - sophomore Brodee Sherman, senior Logan Slack, junior Ryan Doorn, and senior Logan Hansen - capturing a state crown.
But what made those races especially poignant were the two words adorning the baton each team carried with them on their way to victory: TEAM LUKE.
What helped propel those eight runners around the track was the memory of their fallen classmate, Luke Hansen, who in March of 2010 was diagnosed with brain cancer, and died that November, two months shy of his eighth birthday.
The communities of Viborg and Hurley have done an amazing job of keeping Luke's memory alive through a series of Team Luke Events, including the annual Luke Hansen Youth Basketball Tournament each year.
Some of his classmates also make the annual trek to Sioux Falls each year for our Results Radio Cure Kids Cancer Radiothon at Sanford Children's Hospital, to present a check in Luke's memory. Over the years, they have raised tens of thousands of dollars for sick kids in our area. It's always great to see the kids every year and hear from them about how much Luke has impacted, and is still impacting, their lives.
Speaking of Luke's impact, let's go back to the boy's relay win at the state meet.
It was hardly an easy, wire-to-wire victory for the Cougars. In fact, heading into the anchor leg, Viborg-Hurley was sixth in the field of eight teams, with two laps to go.
That's when a talented senior went to work making up ground in bunches on his competitors, moving into third after one lap, and charging into the lead on the home stretch, thanks to a contingent of boisterous support of the Viborg-Hurley faithful in the stands.
That senior, running in the final event of his high school career, was not going to be denied. You see, he wasn't just running for himself, or his school.
Logan Hansen was running for his little brother, Luke.
After the race, Logan told Jeremy Hoeck of the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan:
Before the race, I said a prayer to my little brother and asked him to be there with me.
It felt like I could literally feel him beside me as if he was right there. It was huge for me to feel his presence so strongly throughout that race.
It felt like there was no possible way I would’ve run the way I did without him beside me.
It was quite a high school send-off for Logan, who also added a state title in the 400 and a runner-up finish in the 800.
It was also a very special day for Viborg-Hurley head track coach Bill Hansen, who just happens to be Luke and Logan's dad.
Somewhere, Luke is smiling.