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DL athletes earn trip to Australia

After successfully participating in state competitions, Detroit Lakes High School student athletes are getting the reward of a lifetime.

Ten girls have been chosen for the Down Under International Track and Field competition, which will take place next July, in Brisbane, Australia.

They are Sarah Halbakken, Lindsey Heinecke, Addie Kay Johnson, Allison Berg, Darci Molander, Shay Nielsen, Kyley Foster, Hailey Jorgenson, Rachel Wentz and Karissa Berg.

“They have excelled in track and field to be invited,” Coach Mike Labine said. He will accompany the athletes to Australia; this will be his 10th trip to the Down Under competition.

The Down Under Sports competition isn’t just for track and field. In its 28th year, the competition hosts six different sports. It started with football and has grown from there.

Members of the Down Under Sports organization research all athletes that excel and have competed at state. Those are the athletes that are then invited to participate.

“I’ve wanted to go since seventh grade,” Heinecke said.

“It will be cool to see everything going on, events we don’t even have here,” Foster said, naming javelin as an example.

While there, they said they can pick whatever track and field event they want to participate in, not just what they excelled at to earn the trip there. They all agreed that they will likely try both what comes naturally and something new.

While they the girls are excited to attend the track and field competition, they are even more excited for the trip.

“To be tourists and go to a bunch of different places,” Heinecke said is what she’s looking forward to.

“Being with each other,” Nielsen added. “We’re all good friends.”

Halbakken said she’s excited for the different experiences they will get to have while abroad.

“I’m so excited to hold a koala bear, you have no idea,” she said.

They will have options like scuba diving, parasailing, skydiving and more.

Jorgenson said it’s a trip of a lifetime for kids their age, and she’s excited to participate.

Besides going to Australia, the girls will get to spend a few days in Hawaii.

“I was skeptical in the beginning. I didn’t know what this was about,” Labine said.

But then he went and experienced it firsthand.

“I tell them (student athletes) that track is our excuse to do something most people will never get to do. It’s an athletic event, but it’s also a huge culture experience. I think they learn a lot from the trip as well.”

While in Hawaii, they will be able to spend two and a half days in Waikiki, go to a luau and to Pearl Harbor.

“There’s a reason I keep going back. It’s going to be 10 years of the exact same trip for me,” Labine said. “I’m going to see the same things and do the same things. But, it’s the first time for each of these athletes and that’s what makes it so enjoyable for me — help them experience something they wouldn’t otherwise.”

There have been 800 kids from the United States, Australia and New Zealand competing in the past, and this year they are hoping for 1,000 boys and girls, Labine said.

The competition is three days long, and then the students get to be tourists. They will be gone 12 days total.

Having the opposite seasons as the United States, it will be winter in Australia while they are competing in July.

“It’s awful. It’s 80 degrees there,” Labine joked.

Several of the girls joked that they would be happy to stay there.

“I’ve had that offer before — just leave me there,” Labine said with a laugh.

In order to attend the Down Under International Track and Field competition, each student must raise $5,000, which includes airfare, hotel, food, entry fee, pretty much everything but souvenirs.

“That’s about one-third of what it would normally cost,” Labine said.

The first fundraiser the girls will be conducting is selling Culligan softener salt and delivering it to customers’ homes. The delivered price will be $6.50 for a 40-pound pack of regular salt and $7.50 for a 40-pound bag of the Culligan Iron Out salt.

Delivery date will be either Oct. 26 or 27, and people can order by contacting Mike Labine at 218-841-0601 or emailing

Labine said the idea to sell softener salt came from his sister, who is a teacher in Springfield, Minn., and did this fundraiser for Grad Bash and Post Prom and said it was a big success. Labine decided to give it a try here.

“We want to sell something people need and would use anyway,” he said. “And Culligan was so good to us and gave us the salt at cost.”

So the students can sell it and deliver it for not much more than customers would pay anyway.

“We’re not selling $25 wrapping paper. It’s something different. It’s something you need,” Labine said.

Any money raised from the fundraisers goes to the athletes and not Labine. His portion of the trip is paid for through Down Under Sports.

Besides raising money, the fundraisers benefit the kids in a different way as well.

“I like the fact that the kids have to work for the money. In the nine years I’ve been doing this, the kids that have had to work at the fundraiser really seem to appreciate the trip more than the kids who were given something,” he said.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.