By Tom Rohrer
One must handle the pressures stemming from family, academics, friends, and for many students, extracurricular activities.
For the modern day high school athlete, versatility is many times forgotten, as athletes shift their focus solely to one sport or put academics on the backburner to focus on less productive activities.
Versatility is something Black Hills High School graduate Hope Mortensen finds routine. Mortensen completed her high school career as a standout in three sports all while maintaining a 3.7 GPA.
“I think I just learned a lot about time management,” Mortensen said. “It was tough the first couple of years, but it started to become more and more routine. You just have to stay focused on every detail going on around you.”
An All Evergreen Conference League performer in volleyball and basketball and four time state participant in track and field, Mortensen will be attending Saint Martin’s University in the fall, and will be a member of both the Saint’s volleyball and track and field teams.
Thanks to her performance in the classroom and in athletics, obtaining a college degree while playing sports was a distinct possibility for her. She expected that she would have to travel out of state to pursue that goal.
However, a familiar coaching hire by the SMU women’s volleyball team ultimately was a huge factor in Mortensen deciding to attend her hometown school.
Longtime Black Hills High School Volleyball coach Kara Peterson was hired as the Saints coach in February, and will reunite with her star player in the fall.
“It definitely helped my decision,” said Mortensen about committing to SMU. “I always wanted to go out of state. I started considering (attending SMU) more towards the end of year. I like the school and when I heard (Peterson )got the job, it felt right, and I knew I was supposed to be there.”
Coaching Mortensen at the next level is an exciting prospect for Peterson.
“We want kids that are versatile, can play multiple positions, and people who can come in and make and impact. (Mortensen) checks all of those boxes,” Peterson said. “I just love Hope.”
Along with being named most valuable player for the Wolves volleyball and basketball teams (and being named all-state in both sports as well), Mortensen served as captain for both teams, received the state sportsmanship award her freshmen and sophomore year for volleyball, and took home the most inspirational, captains and coaches award during her four years BHHS.
A recipient of the Dick Nichols Sports Award in 2013, Mortensen has started her own foundation, “Knapsack of Hope”, to help people in the Thurston County community and has initiated a few projects already. She was also involved with the BHHS Advanced Leadership program and took part in many community service projects.
Clearly, Mortensen is more than just a standout athlete.
“She has this strong character element that is easy to see and she’s always thinking of others,” Peterson said. “Having that character and those morals, she can always fall back on those.”
“I always just try to put my best towards anything I do,” Mortensen said. “I think you can help people with simple things, focusing on the so called small things in life, and that goes a long way.”
However, her’ on the field’ awards and accolades rival any athlete in the Thurston County area and possibly the entire state.
She has set school records in every sport she’s participated in at Black Hills, including the all-time mark in blocks and aces for volleyball, most points and rebounds in a basketball game (35 and 18 respectively) and as a member of the schools 4 x 200 meter relay team along with the heptathlon record of 3611 points (where she tried some events for the first time).
“With the demands of basketball, track, and volleyball coaches, she has always been able to balance everything out,” Peterson said. “For her to successfully compete in all three sports and not have to compromise is amazing.”
“A lot of people asked me (what my favorite sport is) and I say I have a passion for each of them,” said Mortensen, who shares the single game scoring record for basketball at BHHS with her older brother Jesse. “Each sport I play is a little different but I have a passion for each one.”
Mortensen accomplished all these feats all while battling extreme adversity in her life away from sports and the classroom.
As a sophomore, Mortensen lost a “father figure” type family friend to leukemia. Before her junior year, a close family friend’s father passed away due to complications stemming from cancer and the fall of her senior year, the mother of the same family passed away during the Wolves district playoff campaign.
On top of those tragedies, her grandma, who lives with the Mortensen family, has undergone five rounds of chemotherapy to combat lung cancer.
Throughout this adversity, Hope maintains her namesake and a positive outlook.
“I think that some of those things helped me a lot, helped me gain some more perspective,” Mortensen said. “I know that when my grandma had breast and lung cancer, it helped me become closer with her. Hard times make you who you are and make you capable.”
The hard times also make her victorious moments that much more special.
“Seeing my grandma’s face after getting a medal or winning a game, seeing her so happy, it’s just an indescribable feeling,” Mortensen said.
Competing at Saint Martin’s will allow Mortensen to continue to compete in front of her grandma and supportive mother Cherie.
“It’s cool because I still get to travel to other places during the season, but still get to compete in front of my biggest fans so to speak,” Mortensen said. “It’s a comforting feeling knowing that.”
Great Northwest Athletic Conference athletes will likely not have the same comforting feeling when competing against Hope.
“I don’t think she’s scratched the surface of what she can do,” Peterson said. “Being able to unfold her talent, in an environment where everyone is as good as her will push her even more.”
“I’m looking at it as another challenge and another opportunity to prove myself,” Mortensen said. “During practice or workouts, I always think about how much better will I be at the end of this. I feel I’m even more motivated now, and I’m ready to show what I can do.”
For more information on Saint Martin’s University athletics, click here.