by Jackie Jenson
Photography by Kim J Photography
For Detroit Lakes High School senior Brady Labine, sports have been an opportunity to try new things and test his physical limits.
Last year at the Craig Fredrickson Invitational track meet held annually in Detroit Lakes, the Laker sprinter broke the 400m boys track record, a very special and emotional accomplishment as it was formerly held by the meet’s namesake, Craig Fredrickson. Fredrickson, a 1996 DLHS graduate, was a 300m state hurdler and held four individual DLHS track and field records who unexpectedly passed away in 2006 from cardiac arrest at the age of 29.
“I was sure I would eventually break the record mid-season, nearer to the True Team track meet,” starts Labine. “At that meet [the Fredrickson Invitational], it was so hot, and I didn’t feel like I was running well.”
Another indicator that it was not going to be a record breaking day for Labine was the fact his other event, pole vault, hadn’t gone well earlier in the meet. Openings for success, however, present themselves under all types of circumstances. As famed race car and sports announcer Bobby Unser once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” So, when those two circumstances united during that uniquely hot day in May, Labine took his shot and the rest is history.
“I didn’t think I was going to break the record at that meet, but was grateful when I did.”
The day was indeed a strange one, an early May scorcher filled with blistering sun and clear blue skies. Early-season track meets are often held in weather such as cold rain or maybe even light snow with temperatures barely hovering above the 30-degree mark. This meet, however, was setting up to be a memorable one, heat and all.
Another oddity of the day was the fact that Labine finished second in the record-breaking race. Alex Vollen of Bemidji took home first-place honors.
“I didn’t win the race [the 400m], but I did set the record for our school,” recounts Labine. “We both shared the victory in a way.”
A sprinting specialist, currently, Labine runs not only the 400m, but also the 100m, 200m, 800m and is a member of the 4 x 800m relay team. Labine, however, wasn’t always a sprinting specialist. In fact, he was first noticed in his elementary years for his talent as a distance runner.
“Mrs. Doll, my fifth grade teacher who was the cross country coach, snagged me when I was young and planted the long-distance running idea first,” notes Labine.
Although long-distance running came first, another sprinting sport appealed to him in addition to track and field: swimming.
“I swam and ran cross country from seventh to eleventh grade,” shares Labine. “My swimming specialty was sprinting, the 50m and 100m freestyle.”
Competing as both a swimmer and long-distance runner, Labine thought his high school sports career was set. Then life stepped in to change that perception with an unforeseen and consequential health obstacle, M.A.L.S or Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome.
“I was diagnosed with M.A.L.S. my sophomore year,” explains Labine.
For a number of years, Labine had been battling an odd stomach ailment which made eating difficult and as it got worse, answers seemed further and further away notes the Laker sprinter.
“I get sick when I work out instead of eating. Eating was difficult because I was so sick,” Labine describes. “I ended up going to a lot of doctors before figuring it out that is was M.A.L.S.”
After a significant amount of doctoring and with diagnoses of everything from “migraines” to “acid reflux,” a CT-scan, trip to the Mayo Clinic and a wonderful doctor named Lundstrom helped to finally diagnose Labine’s ailment as M.A.L.S.
Known as a particularly prickly disorder to detect, M.A.L.S. is a condition characterized by abdominal pain attributed to compression of the celiac artery ligament. When this ligament is overly tightened, it limits the body’s ability to deliver essential blood to the stomach, liver and other organs.
“A normal blood flow rate for celiac artery is 200 centimeters/second. I was at 440,” notes Labine.
So, in February of his sophomore year, Labine underwent surgery to correct the defective ligament that was painfully constricting the blood flow between his stomach and heart.
“I missed swimming that year and tried cross country and swimming my junior year. The doctors said ‘no’ to sports, but I tried anyway. The results were not what I expected as there were still some health issues I just couldn’t fight,” relays Labine.
It was later discovered that Labine had nerve damage from his disorder, making him too sick to compete in swimming and cross country going forward.
“Things just didn’t feel the same,” he recalls.
M.A.L.S. is not a fatal diagnosis but rather presents a quality of life issue, notes Labine. When he was presented with the fact he was not going to be able to compete in swimming and cross country anymore, he decided to try something new. In the fall of 2016, Labine traded in the long distance runs to take a full-contact approach to his senior year, joining the Detroit Lakes football team.
“I had never played football because I had been in cross country which was at the same time,” describes Labine.
In addition to being in a new sport, football was a different kind of sport for Labine.
“Football was the first real team sport I had participated in. It was fun to be part of it, and there were so many people to help me understand the game and learn from too. It was a great experience,” adds the Laker senior.
Although a novice of sorts, Labine had a successful year on the gridiron. Playing cornerback amid a competitive field of talented players, he started every game.
“Football was surprisingly easy on my body. I only sat out two plays all year,” Labine notes with pride. “It wasn’t ideal, of course,” continues the Laker senior, “but the condition only made me sick, not damaged. I could handle that.”
With his senior year half-way completed, Labine is eyeing the upcoming track season wondering what he can do for an encore. As luck would have it, track was the one sport he was able continue to power through with great results even after his M.A.L.S. diagnosis.
Today, as opportunity and preparation continue to look favorably on the Laker senior, it would seem sprinting will continue to be a big part of Labine’s life even as he ventures off to college. Labine notes he plans to attend St. John’s University in St. Joseph, Minn., majoring in Chemistry and running on their track team.
Says Labine: “I love running and plan to run track in college.”
Although sports have been a big part of his high school life, so have academics. In addition to participating in his many successful sporting endeavors, Labine is a top-notch student with a 4.156 grade point average. Creative as well, he also has been part of a number of high school musical productions.
So, with his M.A.L.S. managed and an eye on his academic and athletic futures, Labine is ready for his next chapter: campus life.
“I have always done well in school and try to take challenging classes,” says the well-rounded record-breaker. “Although I will miss DLHS and all of my friends here, I really can’t wait to take college chemistry and run for St. John’s.”