North Dakota’s top track athlete competes as redshirt for Gophers

Hunter Lucas was named the 2016 Powerade North Dakota Senior Athlete of the Year. He also claimed the award from Gatorade.

Freshman Hunter Lucas competes during the Oz Memorial Run at Les Bolstad Golf Course on Sept. 10, 2017.

Courtesy of Craig Lassig

Freshman Hunter Lucas competes during the Oz Memorial Run at Les Bolstad Golf Course on Sept. 10, 2017.

Kaleb Medhanie

When asked about his favorite video game growing up, redshirt freshman Hunter Lucas said nothing. When asked about his favorite television show, he said the same thing. 

One thing was for certain: Lucas wasn’t cooped up inside of his house in Fargo, North Dakota.

The runner grew up in the town of 120,762, a fairly big city with a small-town atmosphere.

“We could not get him to stay in the house,” said Lisa Lucas, Hunter’s mother. “Bat, ball, puck, anything that rolled, anything he could whack at. He would definitely be outside, he was not an inside child at all.”

Hunter Lucas played nearly every sport growing up, which included cross country, hockey, and track in high school, as well as football and baseball up until seventh grade. He ended up finding out about cross country after going to a meeting for the sport in middle school.

“That’s why I wanted to go to the meeting,” Hunter Lucas said. “They said they would go to Dairy Queen once a week and I was like ‘oh, I like ice cream’ and that’s what kind of started cross country for me.”

Lucas comes to the University of Minnesota as one of the top track and field athletes in North Dakota. He was the cross country champion in 2016 for North Dakota Class A . He also won two events in the Junior Olympics, but he is currently redshirting his first season with the Gophers.

He had success in his underclassman years of high school, as well as the early parts of his junior year. Lucas started claiming top 10 finishes for his events in varsity meets. 

Something changed when Lucas went to a meet in Bismarck, North Dakota. He raced against then-defending state champion in the two-mile, senior Sam Clausnitzer, and lost to him as a sophomore.

Lucas ended up beating him as a junior in that event.

“We started thinking he got something here,” high school coach Jason Holland said. “His junior of track he really took off and he continued that all the way through his senior year.”

Colleges started to gain interest in Lucas after this meet, especially Iowa State because he just beat their recruit in his best event.

He eventually won the cross country 5000-meter run championship and the 800-meter, mile and two-mile at the state tournament his senior year.

Through this, Lucas earned the Powerade North Dakota Senior Athlete of the Year and the Gatorade’s award for top athlete in the state, both for track and cross country. 

Gatorade gave Lucas $1000 to donate to the place of his choosing. He gave the money to Shoes for Kids, a foundation stationed in Fargo, which funds shoes for children in need. 

“If it weren’t for a pair of shoes and just going on runs, I wouldn’t have gone to half the places I have, for the opportunities I’ve been given,” Lucas said.

During his senior year, he finished first in the Bill Jansen Blue-White Invitational in the 5,000-meter race, but his coach was more impressed with what he did after the race.

“After he won the east region meet he went back and shakes all the kids’ hands,” Holland said. “Last place finisher of the race, he shook it. The mom could not believe that Hunter shook this kid hand. The kid was just amazed.”