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He ran to ski every mountain

Luther Opjorden, 66, has returned to his athletic roots. At Milan High School, he had been a three-sport athlete, graduating in 1963.

Opjorden was drafted and served four years in the army, including Vietnam in 1969-70 as a liaison officer to an infantry battalion.

Approaching middle age, the extra pounds began to pile up when he stopped milking cows and took an office job. Thirteen years ago, he and his son took a ski trip to Colorado. The mountains were majestic, but his enjoyment was tempered by his lack of fitness.

That's when he turned to running. It worked. It took time and sweat, of course, but he shed 70 pounds and has been back to the central Rockies to ski 13 straight years. This winter, he bummed for 18 days skiing the peaks and bowls at Vail, Copper Mountain and Breckenridge, among others.

He continues to run three times a week and competes in the Glacial Lake Running Series, which he calls the "Fun part" of his commitment to exercise.

He was one of five men recognized for the 2010 "Done 'em All" Award. He competed in all 11 series events both last year and in 2008. He missed part of the 2009 running series due to injury from an auto accident.

Opjorden still lives at the family farm outside his home town. The last 22 years, he's been with Engan Associates Architects in Willmar, where he is a project manager.

On Saturday, Opjorden placed fifth in 27:46 among 13 males in the 60-plus age group at the Memorial Day/Law Day 5k. Placing first was Sherwood Sagedahl, 72, a Brooten native living in Fairmont, in 22.28, which was 38th overall among 256 timed finishers. Sagedahl and Evan Jones, also 72, of St. Cloud were the two oldest entrants.

At the other end of the spectrum, there was elementary-school student Brady Ascheman of Benson. The 10-year-old finished in an astonishing 20:47, or 16th place.

Ann Day won the women's 60-plus. Day has dominated her age class and before that the women's division ever since the days when the Kaffe Fest run circled Foot Lake from the college.

A dozen years ago, races were infrequent and scattered, with the Green Lake 12-miler being the season's landmark race. The emergence of the Rice Hospital Foot Lake 4, the Glacial Lakes Series, the web and the professional timing service of Pickle Events have make it easy to find a well-run race most Saturdays ... to help you get back on that mountain.

Year on the job

Dean Madsen wrapped up his first year as the Kandiyohi County YMCA Health and Wellness Director supervising the 5k run from the Robbins Island Parking lot.

A year ago on his first day on the new job, he observed seventh-year YMCA employee Bryan Thiery direct the race operation, his final task as activities director before moving to Monticello to start a new career.

Madsen is a 1987 New London-Spicer graduate with an AA degree in drafting from the college here. He spent 20 years in the Army National Guard.

He started working at the YMCA as a fitness instructor and personal trainer in 2007.

After one year, he's been impressed by the number of young families using the YMCA.

"It's encouraging to see the concern there is for health and wellness," he said. "It's not just older people, but you see parents aware of establishing a healthy lifestyle for their children."

On the fly

The Cardinal Football Camp for 5th-9th graders will run Aug. 8-12 from 10 a.m. to noon at the senior high. This is no-pads camp emphasizing position drills and game-competition. The fee is $40, including t-shirt and watermelon. Registration is at

A seventh-grade boys basketball team from Willmar won the Gopher State Spring Basketball Tournament in Delano on Saturday. They beat Waconia CBB Flames 49-40, Marshall Southwest Slam 40-30 and the Buffalo Northwest Metro Dawgs 57-38 for the championship. The roster consists of Jay Coquyt, Max Doering, Joel Engel, Sam Kerfeld, Zach Radermacher, Dakota Tjaden, Max Trochlil and Nadir Yusuf.

The Area Youth Baseball League, administered by WCER, has 19 teams from Willmar and surrounding towns in 3rd-4th grade, 16 in 5th-6th, 12 in 7th and 12 in 8th-9th. The upper leagues reach out as far as the Lac qui Parle Valley district.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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