By Tyler Scott, NAIA Sports Information Intern
Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) junior Hunter Bork loved being involved in football, basketball and track and field while attending Mt. Vernon High School in Mt. Vernon, S.D. Hunter won medals and nearly qualified for the high school state track meet as a competitor in the 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles and 4×400-meter relay.
In 2008, when Hunter was a junior in high school, he started feeling some pain in his leg during football season. Over the next four months Cindy Bork, Hunter's mother, pushed him to go to the doctor. However, Hunter refused because he knew that if he went to the doctor his football season would end. The pain in his leg then disappeared.
Once track season started in the spring, the pain came back and he finally went to the doctor. Doctors in Mitchell, S.D., told Hunter he had broken his fibia, but wouldn't give him any more information on what else may be there. Hunter started to realize that it could be something serious.
Hunter and his family then made a six-hour drive to Rochester, Minn., to the Mayo Clinic. They were hoping the doctors there would give them all the answers, and they did.
On May 5, 2008, three days before Hunter's 18th birthday, doctors told him and he had osteosarcoma, which is cancer of the bone.
"It was stage four cancer and I realized I should have gone to the doctor sooner," Hunter said.
"I didn't think it was a big deal because I was mentally prepared for it. I was given the option to keep or lose my leg and knew if I kept the leg, I wouldn't be able to compete in any sports.
There was a 20 percent chance I would survive it and it was a pretty easy decision from that perspective."
Two months later on July 31, Hunter had his left leg amputated and realized he would not be able to play football anymore. He would spend at least 10 months in the Sanford Children's Clinic in Sioux Falls, S.D., going through chemotherapy. He also had a catheter that was across his left side where numerous shots of medication ran through his veins into his heart.
"It was scary," Cindy said. "The first time he had chemo the nurse came in and had a mask and gown and I couldn't believe what was going on. There were so many operations while we were at the clinic."
The news of the cancer and treatment did not bother Hunter as much as what could be expected.
"It didn't hit me as hard because I was going through it rather than my parents," Hunter said.
"Things hit me harder when they happen to other people I know rather than me."
When Hunter finished chemotherapy, he felt like he was a pest to everyone around him because he was not able to do a lot of things right away. However, once he got his prosthetic leg he felt like there was nothing that he was not able to do.
"It took a lot of getting used to," Hunter said. "I've received a lot of support from family and the whole community around me."
Hunter chose to attend Dakota Wesleyan in Mitchell, S.D., less than 15 miles from his hometown of Mt. Vernon. He decided he would continue his track and field career and learn to swing his leg straight into the air instead of to the side like he used to.
Patrick Belling, Dakota Wesleyan head track and field coach, saw Hunter as any other person he has been around.
"He was like any other kid I recruited," Patrick said. "I didn't think of the fact that he had lost his leg. "He was learning to run fast again and his willingness to do things was very high."
Then during his sophomore year as a Tiger, he qualified for something that had been a dream of his. Hunter was invited to the 2011 U.S. Paralympic Championships in Miramar, Fla., held June 17-19. He had been used to sprinting, but decided to take it up a notch and compete in the long and high jump.
Hunter won the high jump with a mark of 4-10 1/4, finished third in the long jump and finished eighth in the 100-meter dash. Not only was his mark enough to win, the high jump, but it also set a national paralympic record.
"When I read the information, I had to read it two or three different times and I pulled people into my office to make sure they were reading the same thing," Patrick said. "I sent Hunter a text and notified the paper about it."
The honor has been something that is still in the process of coming to life and he couldn't be happier.
"It feels pretty good knowing I've only competed for two years," Hunter said. "It's a big deal and I hope I can break it again down the road."
It has been a miracle watching him do what he has been able to do since going through cancer treatment.
"We just wanted him to run again and look at him now, a national champion," Cindy said.
Hunter is looking forward to his junior year at Dakota Wesleyan when he expects to compete in the 100, long and high jump. He also wants to qualify for the U.S. Paralympic Championships for a second-straight year.
Now that he has competed in the U.S. Paralympic Championships, his next goal is to compete in the 2011 Pan American Games.
It has been a rough road for the young college student-athlete. Even after going through a process of chemotherapy, Hunter wants to be more vocal and helpful to other people.
"I'm going to school to be a counselor and I really want to go back to the psychology ward in Sioux Falls," Hunter said. "Other counselors I've talked to haven't been through what I went through and I want to share my story with other kids who are going through something similar.
"When I go to hospitals I want the kids to understand that there's nothing they still can't do. They can reach for the stars and do whatever they want to do."
His advice to other kids battling cancer relies in you.
"Your spirit helps a lot. Do what you feel is right. Don't pity yourself."
Bork Just Wanted to Run Again
Dakota Wesleyan student-athlete sets national paraylmpic high jump record.
By Tyler Scott, NAIA Sports Information Intern