"Team Luke"

‘Team Luke’ propels Viborg-Hurley to medley relay sweep

(Submitted by Walt Anderson)  Luke and Logan Hansen are sons of Barb (Kinsley) Hansen, Murdo High School Class of 1988.  Logan’s coach at Viborg-Hurley is his dad, Bill. Luke and Logan are grandsons of Jean and Kip Kinsley of Murdo who are 1962 graduates of Murdo High School. 
There was about a 20-minute span on Saturday afternoon when Viborg-Hurley was the king of Class B relays.
And Team Luke played a central role.
As the girls’ and boys’ medley relay quartets crossed the finish line — within 20 minutes of each other — in first place on Saturday during the South Dakota State Track Meet in Sioux Falls, each squad carried with it a green baton with the words ‘Team Luke’ printed in white.
It holds special significance for the Cougars. It’s a reminder of a young man who passed away seven years ago. Luke Hansen is always with them.
“Before the race, I said a prayer to my little brother and asked him to be there with me,” said senior Logan Hansen, who anchored the Cougars to first place in the boys’ race.
Minutes earlier, the Viborg-Hurley girls had also claimed a state title in the medley relay, and as they posed for photos near the awards podium, all four runners — senior Lexie Jensen, sophomore Holly Richards, senior Emily Bjerkaas and senior Kirsten Paetow — held their green baton.
They then turned their attention to their boys’ teammates.
Sophomore Brodee Sherman got the boys’ medley relay started, and senior Logan Slack and junior Ryan Doorn kept it going and got the green baton to standout Logan Hansen for the final leg.
In a relay, once the baton is successfully passed on, that next runner is on their own. That wasn’t the case for Hansen, though.
“It felt like I could literally feel him beside me as if he was right there,” he said of his brother. “It was huge for me to feel his presence so strongly throughout that race.”
Sure, the competition pushed the Cougars and Hansen, but there was clearly other support involved, he said.
“It felt like there was no possible way I would’ve run the way I did without him beside me,” said Hansen, whose weekend also included a state title in the 400-meter dash and a runner-up finish in the 800-meter run.
That belief carried Viborg-Hurley’s track teams to plenty of success in the various relays over the weekend.
The girls also finished second in the 800 relay, third in the 1600 relay and fourth in the 400 relay, while the boys were also seventh in the 800 relay. But it was in the medley relay where the Cougars were especially dangerous.
“I always dreamed as a little kid of winning a state championship,” sophomore Brodee Sherman said. “I always thought it was going to be basketball because that’s my favorite sport, but then track came along and I enjoy it.”
As he stood near the awards podium with his teammates to discuss their championship, Slack said he couldn’t help but think back to the journey that got them to that point. On Friday, he said he got a Facebook memory alert that four years earlier to the day he had bought his first pair of running shoes.
“I thought that was kind of ironic,” Slack said. 
“I think back along my whole journey, and to see it come to this point and be able to be up there on the podium with some of the best guys around, it’s incredible.”
The journey was also the story with the girls’ medley relay quartet, which featured three seniors and a sophomore who came into the season not expecting to run the medley together.
“I knew it was my last race with them, so I had to push harder,” said Bjerkaas, who helped the Cougars finish first in a time of 4:22.23.
The same quartet set a school record in the same event at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays in early May, and it was at that point that they started seriously thinking about state, the runners said.
“It dawned on us at Howard Wood that, ‘Wow, we have a chance of winning state,’” Bjerkaas said.
When it came to piecing together which runner ran in what relay for state, it became a juggling act for the Cougars. And Paetow, for example, had just come off running in the 400-meter dash finals minutes before she had to get ready for the medley relay.
“It just really means a lot to me, and I really wanted this for us,” she said.
It meant so much that the Cougars joked afterword that they didn’t want to step down off the awards podium.
“Going into state, I always thought our 4 by 1 or 4 by 2 would be our strongest relays, but the medley just came on strong,” Richards said. “It’s amazing.”

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