Concussion ended Hanson's season early

Here's a story from the school of hard knocks. In mid-September at volleyball practice on the campus of Valley City State College, Kelsey Hanson banged heads with teammate Amanda Smith. Both had gone head-long for the same ball. Smith, a sophomor...

Here's a story from the school of hard knocks.

In mid-September at volleyball practice on the campus of Valley City State College, Kelsey Hanson banged heads with teammate Amanda Smith. Both had gone head-long for the same ball. Smith, a sophomore libero from Burnsville, wobbled to the sidelines with blurred vision, done for the day.

Hanson was dazed, but insisted she was okay and returned to the practice floor.

Though injuries, mainly knee and ankle, are not uncommon in the sport, you seldom hear of contact injuries.

Smith would be held out of practice and matches for three weeks. That Sept. 18 practice proved to be Hanson's last for the season.


It was soon discovered that the 2006 Willmar graduate, an All-Area first-team selection as a senior, had the more serious concussion. As standard procedure, the Vikings' athletic trainer administered a memory test to Hanson the next day. The results were compared to a baseline test each athlete takes upon enrolling.

When she did poorly on three successive tests, she was not allowed to practice and a CT scan ordered.

Numerous visits followed to a neurologist and also a neuro-psychologist in Fargo, about 45 minutes east of Valley City.

Three months later, the 5-6 sophomore still has some short-term memory loss and her sense of balance is less than perfect, according to her mother.

The good news, said Mary Hanson, the Willmar Cardinals' volleyball coach, is that doctors expect her daughter to be "100 percent in six months" from the time of the accident.

Even with the abbreviated season, Kelsey played in 55 games and finished second on the team in set assists while averaging 4.7 digs per game. She played in 111 games as a Vikings' freshman. There's a possibility of a NAIA redshirt season. And the English major has stayed current with her studies with the help of understanding professors.

It was a rugged season injury-wise for the Vikings, who ended up 9-13. Besides the compound injury to Smith and Hanson, another Valley City starter blew her ACL and fourth Viking tore her rotator cuff.

Rookie of the Year


Stock car racer Paul Hartman, also a 2006 Willmar graduate, picked up three Rookie-of-the-Year awards in his first campaign.

The Mod-Four driver gained class honors at Madison Speedway and on his home track at the fairgrounds. He finished seventh in Wissota Mod-Four National Points to gain the prestigious honor of Wissota Rookie of the Year. Wissota sanctions 49 tracks in six Northern Tier states and two Canadian provinces.

At the national banquet in St. Cloud Nov. 10, Hartman took home a pair of $500 checks, one for his top-10 finish and the other as top Wissota rookie in his division.

Hartman's name is not new to racing. He drove go-karts with great success for eight years. In his mid-teens, he hopped into a Legend Car, one of those dashing retro coupes that race on asphalt tracks.

The zippy four-cylinder open wheels are a new challenge. The racing is wheel-to-wheel, bumper-to-bumper. The drivers are hard core, some with 25-years of short-track experience.

"I was third in my first feature at KRA and that gave me some confidence," said Hartman, who finds more thrills snowboarding in Colorado. He works independently as a graphic artist and screen printer.

Hartman finished one spot behind veteran Dean Larson of Pennock in national points. Justin Bjorklund, the young driver from Belview and another KRA regular, was national runner-up in Mod-4.

Two KRA regulars won Wissota titles: Ryan Aho of Chisholm in Super Stock and Cory Crapser of Eau Claire, Wis., in Street Stock. Michael Jans of Montevideo, Cory Tammen of Clara City and Ryan Buer of Atwater all finished in the Street top 10.


On the fly

n Suzie Kuehnast's first college goal was especially memorable. The Willmar native, who graduated from Shattuck St. Mary's, delivered the game-winning goal for the University of St. Catherine on Nov. 24. The 5-2 forward scored with 48 seconds left in overtime to beat Chatham University 3-2 at Mariucci Arena. It's the only win so far for the young Wildcats (1-5-1). Ex-Cardinal Jordan Nielsen is in her third year playing defense for St. Kate's. She and Kuehnast were teammates on the 2004-05 Willmar team.

n Abdi Awale and Mustufa Yusuf were redshirt freshmen on the Minnesota State, Mankato men's cross-country team that finished fifth at the NCAA Division II meet in Joplin, Mo.

n David Johnson, who led the Ridgewater College Warriors in scoring last season, is a 6-5 junior forward at Mayville State. He had four points and three rebounds in a 71-68 Comets' win over UM-Morris. The Cougars got five points, three rebounds each from Benson's Fragodt brothers, Joey and Dan.

n Power-hitting first baseman Keaton Gustin (Holdingford) has inked a scholarship with Grandview College in Des Moines, Iowa, where he'll join current Ridgewater teammate Jeff Brooks next fall. Warriors' infielder Tyler Horning (Willmar) is undecided. He's choosing between Division II schools at Mankato, St. Cloud and Marshall.

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