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July 29, 2011 10:00 PM

Hunter's High Hopes

A young athlete from Dakota Wesleyan University has set an American record in track and field.

Last month Hunter Bork competed in the National Championships in Miramar, Florida and to his surprise, not only did he win the high jump event, he set an American record with a jump just over four feet 10 inches.

That probably doesn't sound very high, but it's a remarkable feat considering Bork only has one leg.

Bork has always loved running track. But after losing his leg to cancer, his dream of competing again was in doubt. That is until Dakota Wesleyan gave him a chance to chase his dream and offered him a track scholarship.

We watched him compete at Howard Wood Field this spring in the open 100 meters. Bork says it hasn't been easy, losing race after race, but he never let that get him down. In fact, it inspired him to reach new heights. 

"It feels good, I didn't expect that," Bork said.

At this year's Paralympics National Championships in Florida, Bork competed in three events; the 100 meter dash, the long jump and the high jump, where he set the American record among disabled athletes. 

"I wasn't sure how good I was going to do in any of them," Bork said. "I wanted to do good, do my best and hopefully compete and I never would have expected get a gold medal or a record."

Bork won two medals, first place in the high jump and a third place medal in the long jump. It's an amazing accomplishment, considering Bork never high jumped before. In fact, he only practiced for about a month and a half before the meet.

The technique he uses is just like other one legged high jumpers. They don't use their prosthetic, instead they take about four hops on their one leg and then flip over the bar.

"The big thing I was looking forward to was honestly learning from other amputees, people who actually have trainers, who know what they are talking about, since we're learning on our own," Bork said.

Because he's now the American record holder in the high jump, Bork is ranked 8th in the world according to the International Paralympics web site.

It's been a long and painful road for Bork to get where he's at today, but he's now beginning to see his dedication and hard work is paying off. 

"Now that I went down to Florida and see what other people do in my classification, I'm not as bummed about it anymore and I understand that I am, as of right now, the best," Bork said.

His record leap of four feet 10 inches and a quarter is America's best, but Bork thinks he can clear five feet next season. He attempted it at the Paralympics during his last jump. 

"From what everyone said is that I had it cleared on my final jump, but when I came down I hit it with my foot," Bork said.

If he can clear five feet, Bork thinks he'll have a chance at qualifying for the World Olympics in London. To do that, he has to clear five feet three inches.

But he's not focusing on that. Right now Bork just wants to keep working hard at getting stronger so he can continue to make another strong showing for the Dakota Wesleyan track team next spring. 

"I'm just planning on doing what I did last year, go to school, hit the books, keep going up, my freshman year I struggled and it's been getting better ever since and keep working on track," Bork said.

Because Bork has already set the bar pretty high. 

"You know going down there and being able to do that in the first year is a pretty big accomplishment to me and hopefully I can keep going year after year and keep breaking it," Bork said.

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