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By David Sharp
Knox County sophomore Austin Jansen was the youngest member of Knox County’s 2021 Class 1 State Championship 4×400 meter relay team. Junior Jacob Becker, Austin Jansen along with Seniors Coltin Morrow and Conner Hayes carry the distinction of being the first Knox County R-I High School boys to win state track and field gold medals since consolidation in 1963.
The Eagles won two silver medals, both by Coltin Morrow in the hurdles and won seventh place medals in the Class 1 state 4x200m relay at Jefferson City HS on May 22, 2021.
Jacob Becker, Branson Miller, Conner Hayes, and Austin Jansen brought the state 7th place 4x200m relay medals back to Knox County. The Eagles won fifth place in the final Class 1 boys team standings with 32 total points. Green City won the Class 1 boys team state championship with 87 points. Scotland County finished seventh overall.
The path to championships is almost always the product of hard work and dedication to a goal. Sometimes we have physical limitations and illness to overcome along the way.
The following account is part of the story for one of Knox County’s four track and field state champions. Medical history shared in this account is with parental consent.
In 2018, then Knox County Middle School student/ athlete Austin Jansen had what he and his family believed was a pulled hip muscle. A visit to the Quincy Medical Group uncovered what was at one time believed to be a mass.
There was a possibility that mass could have been Cancerous. Jansen was on crutches for a time. He eventually went back to school in a wheelchair.
“First of all, they said it was a pulled muscle,” Kim Jansen told the Edina Sentinel. “It went from not a big deal to a huge thing we were going to have to deal with.” Austin Jansen’s parents are Scott and Kim Jansen of rural Knox County.
“You are trying to stay positive for him, but all these thoughts are going through your head,” Kim Jansen said. “They told us they thought it was Cancer.”
“It sucker punches you,” Kim Jansen said. “I kind of understand what people go through, even though our situation turned out a lot better. It was a good-sized area in his hip. I knew something wasn’t quite right.”
“We saw an Oncologist in Quincy. Scott (Jansen) met us there,” Kim Jansen said. “We got admitted to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital. It started at 7:30AM and by 4:30PM we were admitted into the hospital.”
“They had a team of Doctors there. They were so unbelievably nice,” Kim Jansen said. “They were doing scans and tests on him. The Doctors said they really needed to do a biopsy on this. They didn’t know for sure, but they did confirm what we had heard in Quincy. They thought there was a mass growing in there.”
“There was something going on with the surgical rooms. We went all weekend without getting the biopsy,” Kim Jansen said. “We got the biopsy Monday morning. He was really strong,” Austin Jansen’s Mother said of her son. “He didn’t complain. He never once complained.”
“They said where do you want the wheelchair sent. That was a shocker,” Kim Jansen said. “(The mass) was so big it was almost through the side of his bones. There wasn’t much there holding it. They had a plan.”
The Monday in August was two days before the 2018-19 school year began. “He shared the news with his friends. Here he was in a wheelchair. My phone starts ringing with people who care,” Kim Jansen said.
“We got prepared for the surgery. They said if it was too big for them to do what they needed to do, he might lose his leg,” Kim Jansen said. “Thursday the Doctor called from St. Louis and told us it was Benign.”
“Because of the size it was he had to have a bone transplant,” Kim Jansen said. “He had to have a bone graph. It was both synthetic and donated. Just about every teacher he had volunteered to come out to the house for him. We live away from town.”
“The compassion and how kind people were. His friends were just amazing. Whenever he does anything, we are overly proud of him,” Kim Jansen said. “He is very humble. Those boys were just bonded. The whole team supports each other.”
A period of physical therapy and rehabilitation followed corrective hip surgery. “After I was told I didn’t have cancer, I really wasn’t worried about surgery,” Austin Jansen said. “They told me there was still a hole in my hip, and they were going to have to put somebody else’s bone in there and some cement.”
“I was really happy I was going to be able to keep my leg,” Austin Jansen said. “I was happy I wasn’t going to have to do chemo or anything. I was in a wheelchair a few weeks before surgery because they were afraid of it breaking.”
Austin Jansen told the Edina Sentinel he was able to play only a few minutes at the end of the 2018 eighth grade basketball season. Jansen played basketball his freshman season and tried track and field until reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the high school track season.
“I was in a wheelchair after surgery and for a couple of months I had crutches,” Jansen said of the rehab process. “I was doing a bunch of physical therapy for it.”
The recovery process continued when Austin Jansen decided to resume his athletic career. “I knew I wasn’t going to be very good,” the then 14 year old eighth grader said.
“I sat the bench the whole basketball season. I was cleared to play and (Coach Nathan Miller) put me in for three minutes.”
“I just waddled out there. I got back in there,” Jansen said. “I was playing as hard as I could. Jansen was unable to run track his eighth-grade season. Covid-19 protocols shut down almost all the 2020 high school track and field season.
Austin Jansen went out for football in his sophomore season. He was one of the athletes playing in Knox County’s likely final 11-man football game at Milan. Jansen played basketball during the 2020-21 season.
The Eagles finished in the top tier of the Lewis and Clark Conference and went 15-6 in the most recently completed boys’ basketball season. Austin Jansen participated in the 100 and 200 meter dash in 2021, his sophomore season.
He also ran in the 4x100m, the 4x200m and the 4x400m relay as well as throwing the Javelin. Jansen said he was not part of the Eagle 4x400m relay team at the beginning of the campaign.
“We won almost all of our 4×400 relays. The rest of the team was great,” Austin Jansen said. “We usually got top five in all the things we did. We got to state in the 4×2.”
“I didn’t get to see (Jacob) Becker cross that line,” Austin Jansen said of the moment Knox County won the state Class 1 mile relay event. “I ran so hard I was laying on the ground. I shaved two seconds off my personal record.”
“I felt like I was dying to be honest,” Austin Jansen said. “I got up and heard that we won. I was so excited I went to my team and shook all their hands basically. It feels pretty good to be able to do that,” Austin Jansen said when asked to comment on the achievement of winning a state championship.
“It was good to bring a championship to our school,” Jansen said. “I want to keep getting better in everything I do. I can hopefully do better things in the future.”
Austin Jansen told the Edina Sentinel he plans to play football in his upcoming junior season. He will be among underclassmen who participated in Knox County football during the 2020 fall season. Austin Jansen will hopefully participate in the first Knox County R-I eight-man football game as well as the final 11-man football game.
Austin plans to play basketball this winter. He will play for the same Coach that put him into that eighth grade basketball game after coming back from hip surgery. That coach is Nathan Miller who returned to Knox County after two seasons coaching the Brashear varsity boys’ basketball team.
If all goes as planned, incoming Senior Jacob Becker and incoming junior Austin Jansen will return to lead the 2022 Knox County Eagle Track and Field Teams as Class 1 State Champions.