Detroit Lakes' Hanson not just a track star

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- Jena Hanson, the girl with the mesmerizing green eyes, has left a smattering of glitter on your right palm, the keepsake of an introductory handshake.

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- Jena Hanson, the girl with the mesmerizing green eyes, has left a smattering of glitter on your right palm, the keepsake of an introductory handshake.

Hours later the sparkle has spread: on the steering wheel, between the buttons of a keyboard, clinging to dollars bills in a money clip. It's just specks here and there, a faint shine that you barely notice, but can't ignore.

Its infectious. She's infectious.

"The first thing that gets you is her personality," Detroit Lakes girls track and field coach Mike Labine said.

"She has your attention from Day One."


The second thing that gets you is her double-espresso energy.

In a matter of minutes, between chuckles that require a reply, she divulged a list of accomplishments that leaves you in need of a nap: she's a former middle school student of the year, runs cross country and plays basketball, does speed and strength training and peer counseling, plans on taking driver's education this summer and has designed two award-winning fiberglass fish that are on display in the city.

Oh, yeah, she also runs track.

The 300-meter hurdler is unbeaten in career sectional competition and will compete in a second consecutive Minnesota Class 2A state meet Friday and Saturday in Blaine.

All this from a recent eighth-grade graduate 10 days shy of her 15th birthday.

"If I put my mind to it, I've always been able to do something at least pretty good," said the youngest female state qualifier in an event shorter than 400 meters. "I'll do something here and five minutes later go do something else."

That exuberance -- junior teammate Farah Lee calls her "the life of the party" -- is fine by Labine. The butt of one of Hanson's short jokes, he is also one of the caretakers of her innocence. Labine held Hanson out of the 300 hurdles in a handful of meets, hoping to stave off boredom, just as he refuses to set goals to guard against disappointment.

Hanson may be a "once-in-a-career athlete," but track isn't even her favorite sport.


"She's a 14-year-old eighth grader," Labine said. "I'm not going to tell her track has to be your No. 1 priority. She's going to have fun, and to her fun is go, go, go."

So there has been compromise. For the past two weeks, Hanson has been allowed to attend daily basketball camp on the condition that she'll avoid 3-on-3 drills and oblige any sit-still mandates from coach Mike Hoganson. Morning speed and strength sessions were also acceptable until Wednesday, a benching Hanson futilely protested.

"As if in that one hour she might get behind," Labine said.

Hanson took up the 300 hurdles on something of a lark -- "The coaches told me there's not a lot of technique needed there," she said -- though she's made serious strides since. Despite being "a little spooked" by the blue track and stadium seating of Blaine's National Sports Center, Hanson finished ninth at the 2002 state meet. This spring she has a personal-best time of 45.84 seconds, despite a subconscious reluctance to sprint the first 200 meters.

She almost always trails coming into the final turn.

"I just like running. It's something that comes easy to me," Hanson said. "And I like the hurdles. I like chasing people."

Will the chase continue in college? First she has to worry about high school and what to draw and if she's going to try out for volleyball.

Jena Hanson, the girl with the mesmerizing green eyes, still has plenty of time to shine.


"I'm just enjoying life right now," she said. "I'm having fun with everything."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Terry Vandrovec at (701) 241-5548

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