While many high school seniors wrestle with the dilemma of what the next stage of their lives will look like following graduation, Rainier’s Jonny Hansen already has the answer.
Last summer, when his classmates were prepping for their senior year, Hansen, one of the state’s top track sprinters in the 2B classification, spent 11 weeks as a U.S. Army Recruit going through Basic Combat Training.
The location was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, but for Hansen and his fellow Army enlistees it might as well have taken place on the sun. A daily occurrence saw his group long for the mere 100-degree weather they experienced a short few hours ago when it was earlier in the morning and the sun was in its infancy.
Now, it is directly above them as they drill. The heat has spiked and it’s all humidity. Insects are out in force, flying around, some large enough to be featured in a Godzilla flick. Welcome to the Sooner State.
This is all foreign to Hansen, who grew up in Rainier.
He is exhausted, beaten and broken; and loving every second of it.
Outside of his grandfather who served four years in the Army, Hansen does not come from a military upbringing.
His reasoning for pursuing a military career is quite simple.
“I’ve just always wanted to help people,” Hansen said.
That brief sentence is spoken was absolute compassion. It is heartfelt and without a hint of insincerity.
“I want to do something positive for this country,” Hansen said. “I’ve just always looked at soldiers and thought that is what I wanted to do.”
Hansen’s summer vacation will consist of a shorten two weeks. He will graduate from high school on June 3 then head back to Fort Sill to begin Advanced Individual Training (AIT) on June 17.
“It’s going to be a short summer break for me,” Hansen said, “but I didn’t have any down time last summer either. I had one weekend off.”
Given it was something he had always wanted, did last year’s basic training live up to the expectations Hansen?
“Honestly, there were a lot of hard times there, but I was happy. It was everything about the experience that I loved from getting yelled at to getting whipped into shape, it was everything,” Hansen said. “I loved working within the team. I had 60 people with me there from all different backgrounds, working towards the same thing. They were my brothers and sisters.”
And the worst part?
“The same things,” a laughing Hansen said. “I had 60 people with me there from all backgrounds. It’s tough, but that’s what made us brothers.”
Hansen, who qualified for the state meet in the 100 and 200 last year, is all about the team approach, whether its suffering together through a run under the unforgiving Oklahoma sun at basic training or staying late after track practice to work with his relay teammates to improve.
“We talked the other day about what events to put him in. He could quality (for state) in five events, but he wants to be in the relays,” said Rainier track and field coach Rob Henry. “He told me I couldn’t take him out of those two events. He’s just all about the team. I’ve had a few sprinters do that, but not many. Usually they say they don’t want to run the 4×400 and just want to focus on their events, but Jonny has definitely been more than willing to do it.”
Hansen is eyeing top placings in both the 100 and 200. He finished sixth in state in the latter in 2015, but the biggest joy for him may come from helping the Mountaineers’ 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams place.
“As long as I can have the relays, coach can put me in any other events he wants,” Hansen said. “It’s the team aspect I love. I’m running for them. I’m in it for them.”
This team-first attitude, however, did not materialize following the completion of basic training. It is an admirable trait Henry can remember always being present in Hansen.
“He’s dedicated as all get-out. Just leadership-wise he’s always been willing to take on younger kids and help them out and show them how to do things the right way,” Henry said. “It’s just in his nature. It’s instinctual.”
While a return to Oklahoma and the beginning of his career in the Army looms in June, Hansen’s attention is currently focused on closing out his final high school track and field season with some state hardware.
“I’m not thinking about districts right now. I’m thinking about state. Everything I do is about state,” Hansen said. “It’s all the little things that contribute to the big picture.”
According to Henry, Hansen placing in all four events remains the goal and is certainly not out of the question.
“He’s just a tremendous individual,” Henry said. “I think it would be an incredible way for him to end his high school career by stepping on that podium four times. With all the work he’s done, he definitely deserves it.”