NORMAL – Twin brothers Luke and Brett Hanson discovered early on in life that they liked running. Whether it was for fun or in competitions, the two boys who will be seniors next year at Normal Community High School found they had an affinity for the sport. They further discovered that when they were an age they could become part of Special Olympics, they could show they had a skill which would potentially win medals for doing so.

And they’ve been doing it for a number of years now. This past weekend at Special Olympics State Summer Games on Illinois State University’s campus was no different. Luke took home a 6th place ribbon in mini-javelin, and gold in the 3,000 meter run. Brett took third place in the 1,500 meter run and third place in the running long jump. Together, the pair earned silver medals in the 4×400 Relay, where Brett led off the race for his team from Bloomington-based Special Opportunities Available in Recreation (SOAR), and Luke served as the team’s anchor man, running fourth.

Teams receiving gold medals at Area G Special Olympic Spring Games in April, held in East Peoria, qualified to compete at State Summer Games.

“It helps that I start because I’m fast,” Brett Hanson explained. And running as the last part of the relay helps him, Luke added.

“It’s so exciting to watch them run,” said the twins’ mother, Lori Hanson, who along with husband, Greg Hanson, appear to enjoy watching their sons compete. “This is just an extension of another track activity the boys have.”

That extension is that Brett and Luke are members of the cross country team at their high school, Normal Community High School. They were also on the track team for the three years they were at their junior high school, George L. Evans Junior High School, as well. In fact, at NCHS, they have a set of twins coaching the track team. That would be brothers Tom and Dennis Patten.

The guys say they also enjoy being part of NCHS’ “Run Club,” a type of warmup to getting ready for the track season. In cross country, their mother added, her boys finish at around the 20 minute mark.

Lori Hanson said she hopes her boys, who have been involved with Special Olympics since they were 8-year-olds, will be able after high school to join a run club within the community to be able to continue their pursuit of running for just the enjoyment of it.

When the twins got involved in Special Olympics, they took to running competitions almost immediately, their mother said. “It’s always been running,” Lori Hanson said. “They put them in just doing the short distance runs, and as they got older and stronger, and got more stamina, they just started running long distance races.”

The Hanson boys say they have gotten numerous compliments from runners from other schools for how well they compete. “It makes my brother and I feel good inside,” Brett Hanson said.

“They have a lot of energy and a lot of endurance,” said the Hansons’ track coach, Julie Smith, who is a volunteer track coach for SOAR. SOAR is funded jointly by the Parks and Recreation Departments of the City of Bloomington and the Town of Normal.

Smith said the twins’ cross country activity and their parents’ encouraging being active have contributed to why the boys do as well as they do on the track. “Plus, they are naturally athletic, being lean muscular runners.”

Track events are but one of the events more than 4,000 athletes and Unified Partners competing in 6 different sports were able to participate in. They were joined by 1,600 coaches and 2,000 volunteers to make to make the event a success, as roughly 3,300 family members cheered for their athletes. Competition was offered in athletics, bocce, Unified bocce, gymnastics, football (soccer), powerlifting and swimming (aquatics).

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