Star Athlete Yes, but Also Much More
By Norm Newell
Photography by Justin Eiler
You’ve seen the headlines. “Hillcrest Lutheran Academy senior Chris Tungseth makes great catches and scores three TD’s to lead the football Comets in comeback victory” or “Tungseth scores 40 points against perennial power Battle Lake to lead undefeated Comet basketball team.”
So you’re thinking he must be a star athlete.
And you’re right, he is. A 3-sport starter for Hillcrest in football, basketball and baseball for the last three seasons, he has plenty of awards and honors to prove his status as one of the area’s best high school athletes.
But there is much more to Chris Tungseth than you see in the sports headlines, and as the famous radio broadcaster Paul Harvey might have said, “Stay tuned for the rest of the story.”
First the sports statistics, because sports magazine readers always want some stats, right?
Start with football, where Tungseth was a three-year starter, primarily at fullback on offense and linebacker on defense. The Hillcrest football team went from a 1-7 record Tungseth’s sophomore year to 5-4 the next year, then to a state-ranked 9-2 this year. As a captain, Tungseth led the team both offensively and defensively. He rushed 45 times for 287 yards and 5 TD’s, caught 34 passes for 461 yards and 10 TD’s, and was one of the leading blockers on the team. On defense he had 63 solo tackles at linebacker, and assisted on 39 other tackles. For those efforts he was selected to the 9-Man All-State Defensive Team. He was also the punter for the team, averaging 34 yards per punt. Tungseth was All-Conference in 2014, for the 2015 season, in addition to his All-State selection, he was selected as Most Valuable Offensive Player for the sub-district.
Run, catch, block, tackle, punt; Tungseth demonstrated he can do it all on the field.
Chris’ next sport up was basketball. Again, he was a three-year starter. His sophomore year the team had an 18-9 W-L record and he was second on the team in every statistical category, i.e. scoring, 3-point shooting, rebounding, assists and steals. His junior year he helped the team achieve a 23-5 record. He was second on the team to star player Jake Isaac in points and rebounds, but was first in 3-pointers, assists and steals. He earned All-Conference honors that year. This past season, his senior year, Tungseth led the team to a 26-1 record, where their only loss was in the section semi-final, due in large part to Chris being in foul trouble much of the game. He led the team in every major statistical category, first in scoring with 21.5 points per game, and also first in rebounding, assists, steals, and 3-point scoring. He made 108 three-pointers on the season, shooting 42 percent from behind the arc. He scored 29 points or more in 9 games this year, including 44 in one game, a single game record at Hillcrest. He surpassed the career 1,000 point scoring mark. He was rightfully chosen the Most Valuable Player in the Little Eight Conference. He was also named to the Fargo Forum area prep basketball All-Star team.
In the spring, Chris turns his attention to baseball. He primarily pitches and plays third base when not pitching. He again started as a sophomore where the team was 6-9, but improved to 9-7 his junior year. His senior season is just starting at the time of this article. Chris has a two-year batting average of .309 and an ERA as a pitcher of 2.16. He was All-Conference Honorable Mention both his sophomore and junior season as was elected a captain this season.
Definitely a star athlete as reflected by the stats, but now for the rest of the story…
Chris attending Hillcrest indirectly started three generations ago, when all four of Tungseth’s grandparents attended Hillcrest, followed by both of Chris’ parents, Mark and Cathy. Mark played football, basketball and baseball, Cathy played volleyball and was outstanding in music. Chris’ siblings Greta, Danny and Laura all attended Hillcrest and played major roles in their respective sports and activities.
“It’s been a tradition I just had to be a part of,” said Chris. “I attended public school through 7th grade gaining lots of friends from that, and now I have made a great group of friends at Hillcrest…I’m lucky to have such a large support group.”
Each of Tungseth’s coaches at Hillcrest certainly appreciated his athletic prowess, but all acknowledge, too, the rest of the story — his growth as a leader, a people person and a well-rounded individual with multiple talents.
Football coach Charlie Brue noted, “Chris was a key component to our team last fall and he led as a captain should. He worked hard, he encouraged and he was an unselfish player who put the team first. While I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way he played and practiced the game of football, as his uncle, I was even more pleased to see the tremendous growth in Chris’ character as he progressed through four years at Hillcrest.”
Basketball coach Gregg Preston acknowledged, “Chris was truly a unique player in the sense that he developed and encouraged great friendships not only with his own team but with the players that he competed against during the season. As a captain, he helped to create a team atmosphere that was open, positive, and focused not only on basketball excellence, but also ensured he and his teammates took the time and effort to serve Christ and others around them. A great deal of laughter, light-heartedness, and exuberance surrounded the team because of his presence.” Preston also noted with pride that Tungseth was voted the winner of the Christian Testimony Award for Hillcrest this year.
Steve Undseth, Tungseth’s baseball coach says, “Chris is a great teammate, he is constantly encouraging in the dugout and will be a positive influence as a senior leader this year.”
There’s still more to learn about Chris.
Heidi Jahr, Hillcrest’s music director describes another side of Chris not seen on the athletic field — an excellent musical talent. Jahr notes. “Chris has been in the chamber and jazz choirs the last two years and stands out as a leader in our tenor section. He has a gift for singing with a confident and clear vocal quality both as a soloist and in an ensemble.” Chris was a featured soloist in the Christmas program and in Chamber Choir his ensembles received Superior ratings for all three of their performances. Says Jahr, “Chris has led worship many times at Hillcrest and he spends some of his Sunday mornings playing drums and singing with the worship team at his church.” Chris comes by music ability naturally. His mother, Cathy, studied piano for years, teaches piano lessons, and is involved in church music.
There is one common theme in all of Tungseth’s activities, Chris relates well to everyone around him. He is an encourager, a positive influence, and through his many activities and captain assignments, he has grown into an excellent leader, through actions and encouragements.
What else does he possibly find the time to do? Well, at the time of this writing, Tungseth was set to leave with a mission team of students to the Dominican Republic for a week of working to improve the living conditions of the people there.
When he gets back from that trip, he has a day to pack for the Hillcrest choir trip out east for another week, then right into the baseball season.
In his spare time, whenever that is, he lifts weights helping him to grow into a 6’2”, 240 pound well-muscled athlete. Mostly he enjoys the outdoors, playing other sports like golf and tennis with friends, throwing the Frisbee around, and especially, hiking, when the opportunity arises. He volunteers at the Broen Home assisting senior residents there. On the other end of the age scale, his coaches say he will always stop and talk to younger kids at Hillcrest and in the youth athletics programs to encourage them. The spectrum of people Chris Tungseth affects is wide and quite diverse.
“Where I am today is because of a lot of positive influences in my life,” says Chris. “My parents and siblings set a high family standard of faith and involvement and it has made my life enjoyable to be involved in as much as I can. I simply like to be active, and I love playing sports with my teammates.”
Says Tungseth, “Playing for my uncle in football was fun throughout the years. He could be tough when he had to be, but always made it an enjoyable experience for me and the team. I’ve always enjoyed the physicality of football, since my youth days.”
His parents echo those thoughts. “Chris was quite active at a young age, you could see he had natural coordination early on, and he loved being in sports. He certainly still enjoys being active to this day,” notes his dad, who helped out coaching youth football.
Chris has an interest in teaching someday. A thought influenced largely by his Hillcrest coaches. “I appreciated Coach Preston so much, he has been one of my mentors,” says Tungseth. “Besides being a great coach, he’s an awesome person to talk with about life and sports and he expands the lives of many, like his leading mission trips to areas of need. Basketball was so much fun because all the players were like family to each other and to Coach Preston.”
“Baseball might have been my favorite sport when I was younger, but I’ve grown to so thoroughly enjoy all sports that I couldn’t pick a favorite now,” says Tungseth. “Whatever season I’m in is the most important at the time.
His parents have proudly followed the activities throughout Chris’ years at Hillcrest and they’ve enjoyed the coaches, parent and player contacts. “Our greatest joy however has been the growth we’ve seen in Chris with his life, faith and leadership skills. We are very proud of him. Hillcrest and its teachers and coaches have been such a positive influence in his life.”
So there is the rest of the story.
A positive influence, helps youth, helps the elderly, helps those in need, has grown into a leader of others, leads chapel, plays in the church music group, great singer, enjoys music, likes to hike, likes to hang out with friends, good student, appreciates his mentors…the list goes on.
Oh, and by the way, he’s a very good athlete. You will want him on your team.