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Faith brought Denker through adversity

Faith brought Denker through adversity

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David City senior Clayton Denker has had more than his fair share of obstacles in his high school athletic career. 

In four years of varsity sports, his injury history reads like the report for an entire team: a protruding disc in his back, a strain to both growth plates in his hips, an AC joint separation, strained ribs and a fracture in his right knee. Injures aside, he's also been led by three different football coaches.

It's been four years of constantly adjusting physically and mentally.

If there's anyone who could give advice about getting back on your horse after getting knocked down, Denker would be a prime candidate. He's always found his strength to try again from his faith.

"One of the biggest things is just not giving up," Denker said. "I learned I need to keep my faith and lean on God more and just trust he has a plan for me and he has a perfect plan for everybody, and we just have to trust that he’s going to take us to where we need to be." 

That approach has served Denker well this spring after hopes of returning to the state meet and adding to his medal collection were dashed.

As a junior, he placed seventh in the 400-meter dash. This year, he had his sights set on the school record in the event and helping qualify the 1600-meter relay team to Burke Stadium.

The David City school record for the 400 is 50.3 seconds. Last week, Denker clocked himself at 50.9. 

So when the season was canceled it was difficult to digest. 

"I would say it was a mixture of emotions," Denker said. "It didn’t really seem real at first. I didn’t know that’s what would end up happening. That’s not how I envisioned this last track season going. I definitely was a little frustrated and disappointed and had a mixture of emotions."

Denker tried out most sports as a youth and excelled in all. His success continued to varsity where he became a major focus of the offense in the fall, alternated between wrestling and basketball in the winter and was one of the speediest members of the team in the spring.

While injures are one part of his story, there were more than just health issues to overcome. 

In football, he practice and played under three different coaching staffs. As a freshman the Scouts went 1-8. They won two games when Denker was a sophomore and four each of the past two years.

David City was in position to make the postseason in Week 9 before a loss to North Bend.

"Even though we didn’t make the playoffs this year, I still feel like our program made huge steps in trying to set a standard that we need to work hard and expect to win," Denker said.

He was part of the winning in the Scouts' powerhouse wrestling program. David City was second at state his freshman season and third as a junior. 

On the track, he was a consistent point scorer, medal winner and two-time state qualifier.

"Clayton has been a great leader throughout his high school career," head track coach Drew Rodine said. "He shows great dedication to whatever he is working at. It is evident in the classroom, on the field, and on the track. 

"Not only does he strive for accomplishing his own goals, but he also takes the extra effort to encourage and support his teammates to be better as a team. He set the standard for what it takes to be a great competitor as a David City Scout. With the accomplishments he made during high school, it will be exciting to see what he achieves in his future." 

Through just one season, David City head football coach Robert Evans saw great things in his top offensive weapon.

"I had the privilege of working with Clayton in a variety of relationships and settings during the past year and was always impressed with the high level of professionalism that he consistently displayed in all situations," Evans said. "His professional and personal abilities combined with his outstanding work ethic have produced a well-rounded, trustworthy individual that would be a strong addition to any college or program. Clayton displays tremendous character and demonstrates great leadership qualities. I am impressed with his dedication and support to every event or program that he is involved with."

Evans said that if he had to use one word to describe Denker it would be 'vision'.

"He always has great vision for what he wants and where he wants to go. A lot of people have that ability. What sets him apart is his ability to take that vision, set goals, and train the needed mindset," Evans said. "This leads to accomplishment of the goal thus a high level of success for Clayton." 

Next year, Denker will be playing football for the University of South Dakota.

Playing at the Division I level has been a dream of Denker's since he was playing flag football. 

"For that to become a reality is a true blessing," he said. "Through all the adversity I’ve had to go through, it’s just nice to see the fruit of my labor and see all my hard work pay off. It took a while to settle in."

Now, Denker has to overcome yet another hurdle - preparing for the fall with gyms and fields closed. Though his future coaching staff sent workouts, he's had to become creative in order to complete the training sessions.

His solution has been using his own body weight as well as buckets and logs.

While attending South Dakota he plans to study Kinesiology with an emphasis in exercise science so he can be involved in sports for a career.

You can count Evans among those who expects Denker to find success on a professional level. Evans said that if he had to use one word to describe Denker it would be 'vision'.

"He always has great vision for what he wants and where he wants to go. A lot of people have that ability. What sets him apart is his ability to take that vision, set goals, and train the needed mindset," Evans said. "This leads to accomplishment of the goal, thus a high level of success for Clayton." 

Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at DVDsports@lee.net 

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