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Hanson's long journey starting to pay off

Only a dozen Southern Oregon University track and field — athletes have ever been national individual event champions, and Nick — Hanson hopes to become the 13th before the end of May.

The lofty personal goal is not unique among track and — field competitors, but Hanson, a 5-foot-10 junior who specializes in the — triple jump, made the most of his life experiences after almost abandoning — his athletics aspirations.

Hanson, a health promotion and fitness management major, — was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1981, and he lived in an orphanage until — he was six. In 1987, he moved to Bend, when he became the oldest of four — children adopted by Ron and Joni Hanson.

He was a four-sport athlete competing in basketball, football, — soccer, and cross country throughout his childhood, but it was not until — Hanson tried out for the Mountain View High School track and field team — that he found his niche.

"My parents saw something in me that they did not see — in my other siblings," says Hanson. "They recognized my athleticism and — encouraged me toward track."

Literally improving by leaps and bounds, Hanson put up — personal bests three out of four years in high school. He highlighted — his prep career when he won the Intermountain League high jump championship — as a junior in 1999 and placed second at the Oregon Class 4A state meet — by gliding a career-best 6-feet, 8-inches.

His performances caught the eye of Boise State University — assistant coach and former U.S. Olympic jumps guru Ed Jacoby, who invited — Hanson to walk on to the Bronco track and field team in 2000.

Over the next two seasons as a Bronco, Jacoby's vast technical — insights helped Hanson improve tremendously in the high jump (6-10) and — triple jump (47-4), but compared to many of his teammates, Hanson's personal-best — marks faded into the NCAA Division I woodwork.

Hanson loved the Boise school, but the out-of-state tuition — became a burden.

"I talked to my Dad and he said that I probably could — have gotten only second or third in the league at Boise State, so transferring — to SOU, where I have the opportunity to be a national champion, seemed — like a no-brainer to both of us."

Acting upon the advice of his parents, he returned to — Oregon and enrolled at SOU, but the transition was rocky at times.

In the fall of 2002, Hanson participated in the off-season — workouts with the Raider track team, but he began to find himself burned — out on the sport. He quit the team in hopes of focusing more on school — and having more time to pursue hobbies like basketball.

Bolstered by receiving solid grades, Hanson returned to — the team with renewed vigor and a fresh approach: just have fun.

"Track seemed like a job at times, but now it seems as — though the more fun I have the more success I have," Hanson says.

In 2004, having tweaked his triple jump approach, he has — blossomed into a force at the NAIA level and is nipping at the heels of — a 35-year-old school record.

On April 10 in a dual-meet against Oregon Tech in Klamath — Falls, Hanson soared 49-5, the school's second-longest triple jump leap, — which qualified him for the NAIA Championships. The jump also catapulted — him to No. 5 on the national performance list, only a foot away from the — top mark.

Hanson's steady progress was also reflected at the Cascade — Conference Championships on May 8 in which he set a new league triple — jump record (47-1), placed third in both high jump and long jump and helped — the Raiders win a team championship.

The next step in Hanson's quest comes May 29 at the 53rd — Annual Men's Outdoor Track & Field meet at Cardinal Park in Louisville, — Ky.

"He is the best triple jumper I have coached in all my — years here at SOU," says 15th-year Raider coach Mike Jones. "He is doing — what he needs to do to be successful, that is why I believe he has as — good a chance as any at the national championships."