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Top-ranked Perham runner's family used to out-running life's challenges

Perham, Minn. - Perham senior runner Keeghan Hurley’s No. 1 ranking in Minnesota Class 1A means nothing to him. Hurley has his own finish lines, and he’s been getting there before everyone ever since he was racing kids to the playground out the doors of Heart of the Lakes Elementary.

“I remember racing out of those doors, and I always had to be first to get there,” Hurley said Wednesday, pointing to the elementary school. “It’s special to be ranked No. 1, but, when you go into a race, rankings mean nothing. It’s all about what you can go and grab.”

Hurley’s current finish line is at the Class 1A cross country state meet Saturday at St. Olaf College, but it doesn’t stop there. Apparently, becoming the first Minnesota father-son duo to win cross country titles with his dad, Don Hurley – who won in 1976 and 1977 in Class 2A with Cretin-Derham Hall – isn’t enough. Hurley wants to break the state record.

And there’s more.

“I want to be an Olympian more than anything,” Hurley said. “I looked for a high school that would give me the long-term goal. You could be a national record holder as a ninth grader and then not do anything the rest of your career, and that’s sad to see. At Perham, we train to go beyond high school.”

The mindset of Hurley is in his blood. His father and mother, Ann, both ran at the University of Minnesota where Ann was an All-American.

“I always wanted to have my dream with them,” Hurley said. “Both my siblings were swimmers, but I wanted to chase my dream in running because I always loved the idea of being a runner like my parents. They are the reason I went into it.”

The first finish line was the hardest for the Hurleys.

Keeghan’s older sister Meghan, was dyslexic, unable to read or write in second grade. His older brother, Michael, had attention deficit disorder, failing classes early on in grammar school. Keeghan himself did not speak until he was 3 years old.

The Hurleys moved to multiple school districts, looking in Becker and Otter Tail Counties for a place to get the best education for the three children. They were greeted with some schools saying that the idea of their three kids going to college someday was unreasonable.

So much for that.

Michael is swimming at the University of Indiana, where he has been named to the Big Ten All-Academic team after he and Keeghan led Fergus Falls to a state swimming title in 2011. Meghan swam, graduated and got her Master’s degree from the University of North Dakota and is currently planning to get her doctorate.

After his siblings graduated from high school, Hurley chose running and a path that led him to transfer to Perham.

“When I chose running, I knew I didn’t want to stay in Fergus because it wasn’t the right atmosphere,” Hurley said. “The training just wasn’t right. I knew if I wanted to go far, I needed to transfer. It was the best decision I ever made.”

Hurley could not run his sophomore year at Perham because of the transfer. He was forced to sit and watch the cross country team finish second in the state, one point behind state champion St. Cloud Cathedral.

Now, Perham is ranked No. 1, returning to state to defend its 2012 title. Hurley is No. 1 individually.

“That was horrible, but we’ve made sure that doesn’t happen again,” Hurley said of the second-place finish. “This week is a great week. All of us are healthy. None of us are injured. We’re looking forward to stepping up to the line and taking our first step on our path to winning.”

And, after all that, the Hurleys are counting medals.

Within the entire family there are 94 Minnesota high school section and state medals. Hurley is hoping to make it 100 by the end of the track season.

“I really want 100, and I think I’ll get it,” Hurley said. “I’m the last one, so I have to.”

As for the doubters, saying the Hurleys wouldn’t be able to get to college, they were right. Colleges came to them.

Montana State has flown Hurley out to visit the campus, as will Southern Utah. Hurley has a visit with the University of Minnesota scheduled, and the University of Oregon has told him exactly what he needs to do to be a Duck. Those are his top four choices.

“It all depends on how the fit is,” Hurley said. “Money plays a part in it, but it’s all about the fit.”

It’s been one finish line at a time for Hurley, but there’s a good chance he’ll never stop putting them in front of himself.

“His goals are huge,” said Perham coach Jeff Morris, who has led Perham to eight straight section titles and 12 straight trips to the state meet. “I’ve had a lot of talented kids, and he’s right up there as one of the most talented kids I’ve ever coached. He challenges not only himself, but he challenges the people around him to dream really big. That’s pretty special when you have a guy like that that not only pushes himself, but improves the people around him.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548

Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy is a sports reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school and college sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota since 2009 and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so.

(701) 241-5548