Elk River’s Van Denburgh gets state Special Olympics athlete of the year award

Nicholas Van Denburgh paused for a photo Tuesday while bowling with other Special Olympians at River Lanes in Monticello. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Nicholas Van Denburgh, a member of the Elk River team, was named Male Athlete of the Year by Minnesota Special Olympics recently.

Van Denburgh, 20, of St. Francis, will be among the persons honored at the state banquet Sept. 24 at Treasure Island. A female athlete, teams, and volunteers will also be honored

“Criteria for the award,” said Elk River coach Jim Towley, “are athletic ability, being a good ambassador for Special Olympics, being a team player, showing some leadership, following directions, and having good attitude and demeanor.”

Van Denburgh won two gold medals in track at the national meet in July at the University of Nebraska as a member of Team Minnesota. He won the pentathlon and anchored the 4-by-100. He has won the state pentathlon twice and holds several track records. He’s run the 100 dash in 10 flat and the 400 dash in 57.4 seconds.

“He is a pleasure to coach and a pleasure to be around,” said Towley, “and he has the total support of his family.”

Track is probably Nicholas' best sport. (Photo provided by family)

Van Denburg participates in basketball, track, softball, bowling, and sometimes floor hockey. He’s been active in Special Olympics since age six.

“I just like being active,” said Van Denburg. “I enjoy the competition, and the people there areĀ  really nice.”

The son of Marsha and Terry Van Denburgh of St. Francis, he will start an internship at Medtronics on Thursday, putting together medical parts. He said he plans to continue in sports as long as he can.