Father’s recovery from injuries motivates Kiski Area swimmer Levi Hansen

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Saturday, March 7, 2020 | 8:17 PM


Levi Hansen had one of the swims of his life Feb. 28 at the WPIAL Class AAA championships at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

The Kiski Area freshman cut more than 5 seconds off his seed time in the 500-yard freestyle, set a school record with a time of 4 minutes, 44.72 seconds, earned a seventh-place medal and qualified for this week’s PIAA championships at Bucknell.

In the stands that day, tucked in among the hundreds of spectators, was a father full of pride who was grateful for the opportunity to watch his son deliver on all the hard work put in over the past several months.

“It was awesome. We were up there yelling in the stands, so proud of Levi,” said Joel Hansen, 52, who delivered on several months of hard work recovering from life-threatening injuries suffered in a late-September fall at his Allegheny Township home.

The Hansen family patriarch was working on the roof when he fell 20 feet to the concrete driveway. He suffered a head injury, as well as breaks to his ribs, shoulder blade, wrist and hand.

He was in intensive care at UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh for two weeks and spent another two to three weeks of recovery and rehabilitation at St. Margaret’s in Harmarville.

“I don’t remember any of the first two weeks,” Joel said.

He was released from St. Margaret’s shortly before Halloween and continued his recovery leading up to his return to work at Allegheny Technologies in Latrobe in mid-January.

“I am so fortunate and thankful to still be here and doing as well as I am,” said Joel, who expressed gratitude to all of the friends, including members of the high school and club swimming community, who supported him and his family during his recovery.

“It was a touch-and-go situation. The doctors said me being as healthy as I am helped me recover.”

Levi attended an Allegheny Mountain Swimming senior elite training camp in Florida in October, but that trip was in limbo while Levi and the rest of the Hansen family realized the scope of Joel’s injuries and his prognosis.

“I didn’t know if I should go or stay,” Levi said. “I wasn’t sure what to do. We went to the hospital to see how he was doing the day before I was to leave for Florida. He was feeling better, and that was great to see. He insisted I go. He knew it was a great opportunity for me. I knew he would be all right.”

As Joel recovered, he was able to attend Levi’s swim meets, including the Mark Braun Fall Classic in Ohio the weekend before Thanksgiving and the Club Mountaineer meet in Morgantown, W.Va., in mid-December.

There were plenty of Kiski Area meets for Joel to witness, and he said his son improved as the weeks progressed.

Levi got a chance to swim against some of the top distance swimmers in the WPIAL at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association meet the last week of January. He swam to a nontapered 4:49.89 in the 500 and placed third behind Penn-Trafford junior Austin Prokopec (4:49.22) and Franklin Regional senior Ryan McFaden (4:49.67).

“Levi swam well there, and I knew he would be ready for WPIALs,” Joel said.

Ready Levi was.

His WPIAL finish was only 4 seconds away from third place. WPIAL champion Rick Mihm, as senior from North Allegheny and a Stanford commit, recorded a top time of 4:31.91. Runner-up David Bocci, a junior from Butler, clocked a 4:36.56.

“I didn’t know exactly where he was sitting,” Levi said of his dad’s location at WPIALs. “There’s just a sea of people up there. But I knew he was there watching, and that gave me a lot of energy. To break the school record and qualify for states, it made it even better knowing he was there.”

Hansen’s time surpassed the previous school record of 4:48.87 set by current West Virginia sophomore Josh Madzy in 2015. Levi also joined older brother Caleb (200 medley relay, 400 free relay) on the record board.

Joel will be at Bucknell on Friday rooting on his son. Levi, one of just two freshmen in the 32-swimmer 500 field, hopes to climb the ladder from his position as the 27th seed.

As with WPIALs, Levi might not know where his dad will be sitting, but as he gets up on the block and waits for the signal to dive into the pool, Levi knows his dad will be positioned close to his heart.

“(The injury) kind of made me see things and think about things a little differently,” Levi Hansen said. “He is great motivation to make sure I am always working as hard as I can and making the most of the opportunities I have.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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