This fall at University of Washington, Hansen hopes to add a new sport to the list of disciplines she has conquered: rowing.
After a visit to the Seattle campus in November, Hansen returned home with news that got her parents’ attention. The Husky women’s crew coach, Bob Ernst, said she had the potential to earn a college scholarship.
“I’m really excited, because I’ve heard that the sport is very challenging,” she said. “For me, that’s what sports are all about. It’s a new adventure, and I’m looking forward to it.”
The news was unexpected, because Hansen lacked rowing experience in high school. But she might have the sport in her blood.
Her mother, Sharon Hansen, a 1983 University of Washington graduate, was a walk-on member of the crew team in her collegiate days. Ernst, the face of the University of Washington crew program for decades, was her mentor.
“(Ernst) basically recruited me for the crew team,” Dani Hansen said. “He knew that I had never done the sport before, but he said he could help teach the technique.”
The recent Patterson High graduate plans to major in both psychology and art while trying to earn a scholarship via crew.
“In my first year, the school will pay for my books,” Hansen said. “If I’m good at (rowing), then there’s a chance that I can earn a full-ride athletic scholarship by my sophomore season.”
No stopping her
Hansen, one of 14 valedictorians of the Class of 2012, earned a 4.05 GPA during her senior year of high school.
She accomplished that feat while finding success on the court and field largely with just one arm. Erb’s palsy, a paralysis of her left arm caused by injury to the upper group of the limb’s main nerves during birth, limits her range of motion and strength.
Hansen is unsure how the condition would affect her ability to row, but she emphasized that she had the backing of Ernst — who also coached the 1984 women’s Olympic rowing team to a gold medal win in Los Angeles.
“(Ernst) tells me I need to try my hardest,” Hansen said. “He tells me to just do the best that I can. We’re going to work through it.”
Hansen averaged more than six points, six rebounds and four blocks a game in her last season with the Tigers girls basketball team, though she can scarcely use her left arm in competition.
She learned through the years to accomplish everything from the simplest tasks to more complicated processes with the help of her family.
“When I was little, I never thought that I was different from anyone else,” Hansen said. “My parents never separated me or made me feel different. They always helped me figure out ways to adapt.”
At an early age, she said, her parents told her about Jim Abbott, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played despite having been born without a right hand.
When preparing to pitch the ball, Abbott would rest his glove on the end of his right forearm. After releasing the pitch, he would slip his hand into the glove, usually in time to collect any balls a two-handed pitcher could field. Then he would tuck the glove between his right forearm and torso with the ball still inside, slip out his hand and retrieve the ball, often in time to throw out the runner and sometimes fast enough to begin a double play.
“I believed I could do the same thing,” said Hansen, who played both catcher and first base for the Tigers. “I practiced with the glove and finally got to where it was second nature.”
Hansen’s list of recent athletic accomplishments includes being named co-captain of the volleyball and girls basketball teams during her senior year.
She was also the volleyball team’s Outstanding Offensive Player and earned first-team All-Western Athletic Conference recognition.
After a top-three finish in her event, the discus, at the WAC track and field meet May 5, Hansen advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV-V championship at Modesto Junior College. She took third place at the league meet with a throw of 92 feet, 8 inches.
Off the field, Hansen was a member of Patterson High’s Hispanic Youth Leadership Council, Protecting Health and Slamming Tobacco group, Book Club and Drama Club. She also performed in the play “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
The 18-year-old has lived in Patterson her whole life and admitted that branching out on her own initially seemed a bit intimidating.
That fear, however, has morphed into eagerness.
“I’m excited for a new adventure,” Hansen said. “Meeting new people is one of my favorite things.”
• Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.