photo fanatic brings breckenridge sports to life
“The first word that comes to mind when I think of Carol is “selflessness.” She truly embodies what it means to care for others before herself,” Busse said. “I can truthfully say I wouldn’t be who I am today without that wonderful woman in my life. She literally changed my diapers! Carol has been a pillar in molding my faith, personality, and morals. She has been “behind the lens” ever since I can remember. In fact, as a child she made me a photo book of pictures from my childhood.”
Carol’s connection to the children she cares for, even after they’ve grown up, has been a driving force for her photography and the passion that still motivates her to attend games.
“With all the daycare kids and their activities, I’m always chasing games,” Colby said. “With hockey, basketball, dance recitals — I stay busy keeping up with all their stuff.”
Carol’s Canon EOS 70D is her “baby,” a fine machine that has captured four section championships, counting Breckenridge volleyball’s abbreviated 2020 campaign. She received the camera as a Christmas gift five years ago and as far as the settings she uses, well that’s a secret.
“I’ve been asked what settings I use to capture my photos, but if you don’t have my camera and it’s not in your hands, it’s hard to tell you exactly what that is.”
That well-kept secret has paid dividends to the quality of her work. News publications across the region have paled in comparison to the photography content put out by Carol over the years, and we’ve been blessed to use her images in our stories about Breckenridge athletics for the past two seasons. She single-handedly kickstarted our Player of the Game content by bringing awesome shots from the games to Facebook.
Carol and her husband Wayne “Bozo” Colby grew up together in Foxhome, where they attended school until the eighth grade. Carol transferred to Breckenridge and graduated in 1973. As a self described “Farm Girl,” she wasn’t able to participate in sports growing up, making her coveted role as Breckenridge's photo aficionado even more important.
“I didn’t get to play sports in high school with how busy I was being on a farm. One of my brothers played football and track, but other than that, when you were farming you just didn’t get the chance to do it back then,” Colby said.
The girls basketball program has welcomed Carol to the court with open arms during a shortened 2020 campaign that has seen limited fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a couple of blizzards that rocked the roads. Coach Austin Imdieke, along with Victoria Undem, have been helpful in making sure Carol gets her hands on a ticket to the action.
“Austin told me right away, if you want to go to any of the away games just let me know,” Colby said. “This year has been a little tough with the weather, and I’m not usually one to worry about that, but there were some nights this season where I just didn’t really wanna be on the road by myself.”
Carol was a deserving subject for this story because she provides her media services without a payroll budget. She does the work because she loves the work. Her photos provide motivation, confidence, and lifelong memories for local athletes. Many alumnus look back on their careers through the scope of stories, without any visual semblance of history to remember their glory days. Thanks to Carol’s efforts, today’s player can head to Facebook following the game and view hundreds of pictures instantly.
“I think we’re all guilty of not closing the yearbook and find ourselves reminiscing on our days as Cowboys and Cowgirls, more than likely through pictures that Carol has posted to Facebook,” Busse said. “Sadly enough, I don’t think I would’ve had any pictures at my high school graduation party if it wasn’t for her!”
Carol is comfortable shooting in venues of all sizes, so of course she was down for the fan bus ride to Minneapolis to cheer the Cowboys on during their historic run of back-to-back state tournament appearances at Williams Arena, better known as “The Barn”.
“When I rode the school bus down to all the state tournament games, I was very fortunate my daughter was doing daycare with me so it worked out. I’d get home and walk through the door at midnight, those were fun times,” Colby said.
In Carol’s free time she loves going to the lake with Bozo in the camper she’s had for 40 years. She joked that there’s not many pictures of her basking in the sun, because she’s always the one taking photos. The couple are also die hard NDSU Bison fans, who either attend in person, or watch every game on television.
While Carol doesn’t see anything special in her way of life as Breckenridge’s unofficial sports photographer, there’s an entire city of fans that appreciate her commitment. Ultimately, that’s just who she is.
“Many people may not know that Carol’s husband Bozo, daughters Becky and Jenny, and son Travis share many of the same attributes; kindness, generosity, and selflessness,” Busse said. “Bozo and Carol are two people that I’m forever in debt to for loving me as one of their own. Carol taught me empathy, love, pride, confidence, and the list goes on and on.”
Carol was the Boys Basketball Booster of the Year in 2013-14. She was the All-Sports Booster of the Year in 2016.
Player, coach, educator, and st. mary's stabilizing force
Smith has been the athletic director at St. Mary’s for over 30 years, and been around the game even longer. The 1981 Breckenridge graduate scored over 1,000 career points at a time where women played with a men’s ball, games were only 32 minutes long, seasons were 18 games, and there was no three-point line.
She went on to dominate at NDSCS, graduating in 1983 after an illustrious career participating in basketball, track and field, tennis and volleyball. Smith was a 2x all-conference selection in basketball and volleyball and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2011. She had been asked several times previously, but felt she should be out of the game for a longer period of time before consideration. Her track and field team also won a region championship during her time at the Wahpeton based college.
Smith was one of North Dakota State University’s first JUCO transfer targets. She spent one redshirt season with the Bison basketball team, before settling down in Breckenridge and starting a family of her own. Sue has five children — Lindsay, Savannah, Ethan, Blaze, and Daymon. All of them have participated in the sport of basketball at some level and have continued to help officiate and work youth events. Sue recently coached a seventh grade game in which her grandson, Jackson, drilled a three-pointer to pull ahead late in a 40-36 double-overtime win. Her coaching counterpart on that junior high team? Noah Christensen, another St. Mary’s product.
“One of my girls kept dribbling the ball to the right corner. We came out of a timeout, probably the third one I’d called, and she got the ball stolen from her,” Smith recalled. “The defender dribbled up the left sideline and I whacked it out of her hand and shot it at our own hoop. I was more mad because I only hit the rim with the shot than I was about the technical.”
Over the years Sue has noticed an increase in players criticizing officials, something she dissuades her teams from doing.
“I try to teach them not to talk to officials, as hard is that is nowadays,” Smith said. “If I think it’s something that should be questioned that’s my job as the coach to take care of that, and try to keep the kids from talking to officials.”
She believes the rise in player interaction with officials coincides with the 3-on-3 “Call your own foul” era of basketball, where things that weren’t always fouls in that backyard setting, certainly are in school sanctioned hoops. The same could be said for the contrast in calls between AAU and high school league activities.
“In the early years of 3-on-3 you reffed your own games. Coaches could come along but it had to be all player run, no officials,” Smith said. “I remember the Gus Macker tournaments in Fargo, you’d play in the parking lot of West Acres Mall and you’d come out of there with shredded knees. You couldn’t say ‘No blood no foul,’ because there was a lot of blood.”
When Smith coaches or officiates she has a simple fix for the contrast in styles — play with your feet. The disciplined coach instructs players to keep their hands back and work their butts off for defensive stops. Hard work has certainly gotten Smith to this point in her career, and she hopes to steer youth in the same direction.
I’ll leave you with this, a St. Mary’s monthly newsletter from March 2008, where principal Linda Johnson describes Smith’s service with the school.
“Our young athletes worked hard and were committed to their team through dedicated practice and teamwork on the court during games. This doesn’t just happen. It takes a coach who is passionate not only about teaching the fundamentals of each sport, but also the life lessons about how to work as a team, how to accept praise and criticism, how to win or lose with dignity, and how to be respectful to others. Sue Smith, as our athletic director and head coach, has been this driving force. She has a passion for sports and she loves her faith. She brings the mission of our school to the playing floor and our students are better people for having had her as their coach. Thank you, Sue.”
Cowboy linemen allowed only one sack all season
• By Robert Wanek Jr.
The Breckenridge football team was led into battle all season by ultra-efficient quarterback Cooper Yaggie. The Cowboys won six of those seven battles, on the way to their first section championship win since 2008. However, the war for Section 6A was ultimately won in the trenches, by Yaggie’s senior-laden line — The Hogs. This impressive group of true athletes led by Gavin Johnson, Jonah Christensen, Jared Aamold, Bryant Hasse, Gus Hasbargen, Ben Krump, and Dallen Ernst allowed only one sack all year long. Yes, you read that right — one quarterback sack in 7 games, 61 passing attempts, 28 quarters. As a result, Yaggie posted 14 passing touchdowns to 1 interception, while rushing for 400+ yards behind his beastly brothers.
“I think what made the line so good was that they were such a tight knit group who all loved each other,” Yaggie said. “They took it personal to keep me protected at all times. I loved every single one of them like a brother and I trusted that everyone on that line would give 100% to give me time while passing or a hole to run through. I’m glad I was able to quarterback behind a line that will go down as one of the best to ever play for Breck.”
Cooper held up his end of a preseason deal he made with his blockers — buying them a meal if they allowed a low number of sacks. It was fitting he rewarded his linemen off the field, since they piled up the pancakes on the field.
Johnson was named the Midwest White District Offensive Lineman of the Year. He and Connor Twidwell will be taking their talents to Minnesota State University Moorhead. Aamold brought some serious fire to the group, spinning the football in celebration after multiple fumble recoveries. After the huge loss of Hasse to injury with two games remaining, Ernst stepped up and used his towering frame to keep pass rushers at bay. Christensen was excellent in pass protection, allowing his quarterback ample time for several deep completions, resulting in a completion rate of 22.3 yards per clip. Hasbargen was a shotgun snapping aficionado, delivering the football with precision to his dangerous quarterback. Krump crushed opponents at the goal line on a number of touchdowns and 2-pt conversions. There was no weak link in the Breckenridge line.
“When I heard that I was voted offensive lineman of the year, that was pretty cool for me because we don’t get a whole lot of credit down in the trenches,” Johnson said. “I would just play and leave it all on the field and it’s cool to see people notice that. There’s no way I would have gotten that (award) without my other linemen. You can’t have only one or two good linemen and win games. They always had my back.”
Head coach Chad Fredericksen had plenty to say about the linemen that carried him to his first section title in 12 years and one season after finishing as runner-up.
“Tough, dependable, physical, durable, strong, big, competitive,” those were the words the veteran frontman used to describe his pile pushers.
“It didn’t matter who was rotating through, they all helped each other out. They made us tick,” Fredericksen said. “You don’t put up the offensive numbers we did without a great offensive line. You add Daniel (Erlandson) and Connor (Twidwell) to that group and you have something pretty special. It’s hard to imagine not having those guys next year.”
Daniel played fullback for a fearsome rushing attack led by Midwest White District Running Back of the Year Christian Nieto, Wide Receiver of the Year Jacob Vizenor, and James Mertes. Twidwell lined up at tight end, where he caught a pair of touchdowns and ran over opponents with his excellent downfield blocking. Erlandson was widely regarded as Minnesota’s top fullback. In seven games, the Cowboys rushed for 1,878 yards and 25 touchdowns.
“They’re the real dawgs and I wouldn’t trade them for any other line,” Nieto said. “They worked their tails off. None of us backs would have been able to do what we did without them. I’m gonna miss those hogs.”
Aamold, Christensen, and Johnson were all three year starters. That level of experience and earned toughness was crucial to the Cowboys winning the line of scrimmage.
“That made our lives as coaches super easy,” assistant coach Jordan Christensen said. “They always knew what their assignment was and had the physical skills to execute it. It’s not very often that you’ll find a group of linemen as good mentally as they are physically. Overall this group will be one of the best offensive lines to come through Breckenridge.”
In addition to coaching, Christensen also runs the strength program, a role that’s produced an obvious increase in the performance of Cowboy players across the board.
Breckenridge boasted a lethal return game as well. Johnson and Twidwell did damage in that department, leveling opponents to free Vizenor, Mertes, and Dylan Bernotas for return touchdowns. Against Staples-Motley, Twidwell’s block sent a would-be tackler three yards in the air, springing Bernotas for a punt-return score. While it was typically the A-Team of Alex Martel and Alex Tschakert upending returners, the Breckenridge big boys got dirty on special teams as well.
Most of the Cowboy line played both sides of the ball, where big plays came in bunches. Hasse tripped up Barnesville’s scrambling Adam Tonsfeldt on a fake punt. Erlandson and Aamold each recovered fumbles inside the 10-yard line just before halftime of the Ottertail Central and Barnesville games. Twidwell showed off his mitts, adding an interception to his multiple receiving scores. With size came great athleticism, a heralded combo for linemen.
Offensive linemen are often the unsung heroes, the hard hat and lunch pale crew, doing a thankless but vital job. This wasn’t the case with the 2020 Breckenridge Cowboys, as the The Hogs made their mark loud and clear, as a unit and individually.
New location, same attitude for breck-wahp gym owners
“One of the coolest things to me when we first moved here was Vance Johnson walking in and telling me a story about Chad, then Chad starts to train his son," Tracey said. "It’s so interesting to me that these men that were older than Chad or the same age have come back around to share these stories and think we are the best place for the job.”
Next Level has served a variety of clients from young hockey players to 80-year-olds working out well into the twilight of their lives. While the gym is all-inclusive, much of the training is geared towards the hardcore athlete looking to continue their sports career and enter unique fields such as body building and mixed martial arts. NLP is home to Golden Glove boxing champion Braydon Olson, champion weight lifters Brandon Thiel and Bailee Heitkamp, and MMA fighters like Wyatt Meyer, Dennis Booke, and Jacob Thiel. Those fighters compete in North Star Combat, ran by president and former UFC star Stephan Bonnar.
Thiel and Booke have poured their time into the mixed martial arts arena with their personal brand “Elite MMA,” doing so under the radar for the most part. They built a training cage in the back of NLP, equipped with an area for heavy bag and speed bag training as well.
“Those two are amazing and don’t really get much recognition,” Desjarlais said. “They have full-time jobs, families, and still make time for our fighters and MMA fitness in general. They were really interested in continuing to fight after their high school wrestling careers and they’ve pushed that into instruction for the young guys, competitive guys, and people who just want to get in shape. They have 10-15 members and about four or five who compete.”
Chad’s journey into physical fitness started around age 12, when he got into a little bit of trouble and his mother sent him to Coach Larry McDaniel’s summer camp at NDSCS to blow off some steam. Chad’s love for the gym was reinforced in high school by legendary strength coach John Bell, who was lauded by the 1988 Breckenridge state championship football team for his instructional skills in the weight room.
“My freshman and sophomore year under Coach Bell I was actually the assistant strength coach, before leading the program my junior and senior year,” Chad said. “John (Bell) was an inspiration because he used all of his own funding and formed a powerlifting team from the area that went all over to compete, traveling in his personal RV.”
When COVID-19 came sweeping through the nation, the Desjarlais family was forced to move from their location, causing a sense of uncertainty for a duo that was gaining traction in the community.
“Law enforcement came over and told us the governor was shutting us down,” Tracey said. “We closed our doors just like every other business. We were laying in bed and got a phone call from our landlord telling us we needed to move. We had a really good relationship with the owner so we weren’t expecting a move and we were really devastated and blindsided by it.”
The couple initially scoped out the old Pamida building just west of town for a new location, but ultimately honed in on the vacant Sears building next to Family Dollar.
“I hated it at first. I wanted to go to the old Pamida building but there was way too much work to get started there,” Tracey said. “There was still appliances in the Sears building and I didn’t like the space, but as soon as we walked through the double-doors everything changed. We went from 4,500 square feet to 6,800. This put us right on main street and made a big difference with visibility, too.”
Tracey handled the transition and renovation single-handedly, kicking her husband out of the new space for 45 days until they were allowed to reopen. When Da Bull finally touched down, he was chomping at the bit to get back to work with the NLP Family and reconnect with them as individuals.
"We’re really a family here. Our members will come in not only to talk about lifting and things like that, but about school, relationships, their new job, anything important in their lives. So it’s really a place of counseling too and we take pride in the mental aspect of our gym,” Chad said.
The gym hosts “Savage Saturdays and Sundays,” where members come home for the weekend and train viciously to attain new personal records. Some of the members do miss the basement at the old facility however, as they could see the ceiling caving in from how heavy they had been lifting upstairs.
The Desjarlais power couple works as a team to keep operations rolling during these crazy coronavirus times, offering different dynamics to those who walk through the door.
“Tracey does a lot more of the business management part. I’m more into the hardcore individual training,” Chad said. “I always wanted to have a gym that was open for everybody — runners, traditional athletes, lifters, every aspect of sports. Making sure we push people to go to a higher level is huge. When I was coming out of high school, our coaches didn’t really take that second effort to prepare you for what’s to come at the next level. We want our athletes to be prepared if they are serious about playing at that level.”
Chad’s experience playing for the Bison and professionally before blowing out his quadriceps and hip during a powerlifting accident, adds an aura of experience when it comes to the stresses of continuing a sports career. He had dreams of making it to the NFL before realizing his purpose was in preparing younger generations to take the mantle.
“The physical part is the fun part but the mental part needs more understanding,” Chad said. “The coaching is tougher, the locker room dynamic is tougher. Studying, workouts, meetings, a lot of kids don’t understand the level of things they are signing up for.”
Tracey is always willing to lend a hand, or an ear, as an active listener for NLP athletes.
“Often times I’ll be holding court with our athletes and figuring out why they aren’t playing sports anymore,” Tracey said. “Chad’s grabbing them in a way to find out what they can do to get better and I’m a little more therapeutic. He’s the bull in this house and I’m here to facilitate his and their dreams.”
In the age of hustle and bustle, where the compassionate parts of fitness life get caught up in the “Grind” mentality, Next Level Performance is the family we need. To Chad, it's not just a figurative family, it's a fitness family.
“It’s almost like it’s your own kids going off to college, and it’s emotional when they come back to see how much progress they’ve made and to see them doing things they probably wouldn’t have done if they never walked through these doors.”
“There isn’t a lot of style to me, but I do like to show my excitement. I like to set the tone of a game, and that seems to motivate others to do the same,” Anthony said. “I’ve always been the type of person, even growing up, who was willing to step up and do the dirty work.”
Grace is more even keeled on the court, showing little emotion in victory or defeat. Even during a junior season in which she averaged a double-double of 11.2 points and 10.1 rebounds, it was done quietly and efficiently at 55% shooting from the field. Grace keeping her nose to the grindstone is something she credits to the support of her mother, Jennifer.
“Since she was an athlete, I could always go to her about sports. She’s taught me hard work and determination, so I’m very grateful for my mother,” Grace said.
Anthony kept sharp during the coronavirus shutdown by shooting hoops at St. John’s gym where his mother often rebounded for him. Anthony’s biggest inspiration is his father, Clint, a successful businessman and a perennial hard worker decades in the making.
“It’s funny that the person who inspires me most didn’t really push me toward playing basketball at all. Yet, he teaches me how to be the hardest worker in life — not just athletics,” Anthony said. “He ran three businesses when he was just 30 years old and he’s the calmest person I know.”
Anthony tested the AAU basketball waters with West Central United this offseason, competing alongside athletes from Perham, Montevideo, Paynesville, Ashby, and Fergus Falls. He hopes the diversity of players on that squad will help him evolve as a basketball player.
"I had to understand how people move differently, run plays differently, and how to support each other no matter which ways we were different. I’ll never forget the experience," Anthony said. "Each guy was unique in their own way and had their own unique talents. I feel honored to have been asked to be a part of their team."
Grace's dominance on the low block may now be paired with an improved shooting touch away from the hoop. As scary as she is around the basket, she hopes her offensive arsenal will stretch the floor much deeper as a senior scorer.
"I have been shooting more outside shots around the perimeter. I have been improving footwork and finishing at the rim. I've practiced new post moves and footwork. I've worked on many parts of my game to become a more versatile player," Grace said.
While Anthony's improved individual game is a focal point, his team's success remains number one on his 2020 agenda.
"Our goal is to compete in the Section Championship game and play at our highest level when it comes to playoffs," Anthony said. "My goal is for our team to work together and not worry about any drama going on around us. We can’t allow ourselves to get distracted."
When asked about her favorite Cowgirl basketball player of all time, Grace pointed to a hard worker and consummate team player --- Lauren Johnson.
"She was a senior when I was a sophomore, and always came to practice with a smile," Grace said. "She was a very hard worker and always hustled for loose balls and sprinted down the court. Lauren and I frequently would stay after practice and get some shots up. She would do anything for the team to make it better and always had a positive attitude."
Anthony's favorite player is Breckenridge's record-setting, and more importantly, example-setting leader --- Noah Christensen.
"I look up to him because he’s a great friend and a good person, he has a lot of energy, and he builds people up when they are down," Anthony said. "In a game, he does the dirty work that others don’t want to do. You can’t break him down, because he always gets back up. He has a true winning attitude. That’s what I strive to be."
For these two blooming Breckenridge athletes, reflecting on their childhood is becoming more important in a turbulent year full of twists and turns. After all, high school zooms by in the blink of an eye.
"There are so many memories growing up, it’s hard to choose one," Anthony said. "A lot of our memories have to do with water activities, whether it was hanging out with our friends at the Breck pool or going to the lakes and jumping off the pontoon. We were always outside doing something. As redheads, we had to watch out for sunburns though!"
Being able to laugh and learn, yet compete with tenacity --- That's what makes these twins so special.
Anthony and Grace will continue to use their blessed upbringing to remain positive during an uncertain senior season. After graduation, Grace plans to go into nursing, or a career elsewhere in the health and medicine field. Anthony plans to attend college and go into the business field. Both athletes have a desire to play basketball at the next level.
Grace was the 2019 Breck Sports Talk Co-Athlete of the Year.
former cowboy goes from the gridiron to the guard
Feigum certainly achieved folklore status during two state tournament trips as a basketball player and one as a baseball player. Forging his own path with no handouts was something Hunter took great pride in. He moved to Breckenridge in kindergarten and dedicated his athletic career to a display of honorable hustle. In a small town with a population of 3,500, he proved it’s not where you do it — it’s what you do.
“I had to pave my way for my last name,” Feigum said. “Playing and becoming known in Breckenridge was very, very important to me.”
Aside from his game-clinching steal in section basketball playoffs, or his golden glove performance on the diamond, being a keeper of the culture was something that truly set Hunter apart during his tenure as a Cowboy. He was seen by many as Breckenridge’s beam of light.
“There’s a difference in being a good athlete and being good off the court. Our younger generation comes to the games and it made me so happy when they’d come up to me and wear my pin,” Feigum said. “It’s important to be a really good person off the court. I feel like I’ve been given so much my whole entire life, that I would love to give back to my community and the national guard is one way to do that."
Initially, Feigum wanted to enter the Fish and Wildlife field. He also wanted to play college football. While talking with interested programs, none of those schools offered the major he desired. He opted not to play college football and enrolled at South Dakota State University.
That lasted one year, as Hunter craved the presence of those he grew up with and moved in with his best friends and former teammates Charles Boldingh and Luke Arnhalt. The move took Feigum to Fargo, where he’s now a student at North Dakota State University.
“I really like that a lot of people from the area go to NDSU. It’s the place to go,” Feigum said. “I can walk around campus and see tons of people from the Heart O’ Lakes Conference. When I went to school in South Dakota, my classmates would walk around and point out to other friends they played against in high school sports, I’d kind of be in the background and wishing I had that.”
While he regrets not pursuing a college sports career, he won't let the opportunity of being a guardsman slip through his fingers. After speaking with classmates Sam Bakken and Nate Phillips, who enlisted, Feigum made the leap. One of the big reasons, along with a $20,000 bonus, is that he can now pay his way through college on the back of his work ethic without living life in regret. The young man may not have a name plate on his back, but he will have one on his chest, and be part of another team.
Feigum will begin his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood beginning May 26th. The base is located in the famed Missouri Ozarks region.
Feigum now studies Agricultural Economics, a field with a bountiful amount of jobs that take place outdoors, where Hunter enjoys working and relishes in hunting and fishing often. Ag-Econ makes up roughly 25% of all jobs in the world.
Feigum’s sportsmanship was always on display, notably in the 2018 section basketball semifinals against Hawley. He scrambled to corral a rebound and got tangled up with an extremely stocky Noah Glad. They didn’t tussle, instead they embraced in the midst of a tense rivalry game for a hug, before continuing to battle to the buzzer. It’s that fine line between knocking your helmet off on the field and shaking your hand after the whistle that embodies Feigum’s legacy.
He became friends with many of his opponents over the years, transcending the competitive side of sports into an unlikely brotherhood.
“Ever since you’re little, you go to tournaments and you just see familiar faces. You get a little older and the game means a little more, less of the fun and more of the competitive wanting to win,” Feigum said. “Noah and I would go hangout. It started sophomore year after we played, we’d link up on social media congratulating each other. That sparked me to become really good friends with Chase Libak and Noah.”
Those friendships never took Feigum’s eye off the prize, but it made sports less of a job and more of a wholesome experience for the lunch pale and hard hat style athlete.
“I just knew I was playing against some good guys, so even though it’s competitive you get to go out and have fun,” Feigum said.
As one of the most passionate players to ever grace the halls of Breckenridge High School, Hunter doubled-down on his appreciation for the game, reminding this year’s football seniors to remain present where their feet are, cherishing each moment that remains before looking too far ahead.
“Any athlete can say that it goes by too fast, but these guys almost lost their season because of the pandemic,” Feigum said. “Cherish every play because once high school sports is done, there’s nothing even remotely close to it. Nothing.”
Feigum was the 2018 Carter Casey Sportsperson of the Year.
Werner was a senior starter for Breckenridge’s high school football team, also throwing discus and shot put for the track and field squad. He spent two years playing city league basketball as a highly intelligent player who specialized in ball screens and boxing out would-be rebounders. Werner recently bowled a 244 scratch game in league competition at Terrace Lanes. When it comes to athletics, Tanner doubles down on his strengths instead of dwelling on his inabilities.
“As a senior, I’m not sure we had a harder worker on the team. Tanner never made excuses and never felt sorry for himself with his limitations,” Breckenridge football coach Chad Fredericksen said.
The ultimate team player, Tanner only asked for one thing — a chance.
“Getting that equal opportunity to play the sport of football made me very appreciative of everyone who has supported my desire to play the sport I loved most,” Werner said.
Bringing Tanner into the fold with Breck Sports Talk as a videographer was a no-brainer because of his high character and personal generosity. Fredericksen noticed these qualities on and off the football field during Tanner’s playing time as well.
“Even before he started playing for us he helped out as a ball boy and manager. He was always willing to do whatever we asked to help out the team,” Fredericksen said. “Tanner continues to give back to the team and does a great job with video highlights. We are very lucky to have him so involved!”
Having to work hard for everything he’s earned in life, football was no exception for the gritty lineman. The gridiron trenches weren’t much different from Tanner’s daily life and he seemed to embrace those battles.
“As Tanner started to get older, he started to get larger. He worked hard in the weight room and eventually moved from backfield positions to line positions,” Fredericksen said. “He started on the defensive line for us and had a great senior year.”
Sports isn’t just a hobby for Werner, it’s a lifestyle. The 25 year old participates in a wide variety of athletics and outdoor activities.
“I love to hunt and fish,” Werner noted. “ I’m thankful for my stepdad, Jesse, who has helped me since day one to figure out ways I can achieve what it takes to do both, and actually being there with me all the way through to share those experiences.”
Tanner’s advice to others suffering from eye disease is not a script of sorrow, but an example of strength and humility in the face of life’s challenges.
“My advice to those with this disease is to first accept the disease, because that will make you more open to yourself and others,” Werner said. “It will give others a better understanding of what you’re going through every day by just talking about it and raising different questions. Others will help you figure out the way you need to go about problems in your life, so you don’t feel so alone going through a lifelong condition.”
Throughout Tanner’s yearly visits at the University of Minnesota, doctors have informed him that his disease has progressed but has been mostly stable for the last 10 years. Doctors have been following research studies and hope that one day stem cells may be a viable treatment or cure for Stargardt disease, an ailment that has had an impact on so many.
“I do hope a cure can happen in the near future, so I can get that opportunity to see what I’ve never been able to see before,” Werner said.
For now, Tanner will continue reaching thousands of viewers with his professional sports highlights. Although he sees differently than his counterparts on the playing field, Werner’s video vision is an inspirational story for us all.