Photo provided Hillcrest senior Zach Nersten has a lot of reasons to smile after battling through a year of not being able to play basketball. He looks forward to playing baseball for the Comets this spring.

Archived Story

Nersten overcomes [UPDATED]

Published 11:00am Tuesday, April 3, 2012 Updated 11:00am Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Zach Nersten can smile about his high school career and be proud of what he accomplished. The senior Hillcrest basketball and baseball star will know what it’s like to battle adversity and overcome emotional pain. His journey wasn’t perfect, but he cherishes every moment.

“I have had an amazing experience playing basketball and baseball at Hillcrest,” he said. “It has been an absolute pleasure to have been a Comet and I have worn the uniforms with much pride. I must admit though, when I consider some former guys who wore Comet jerseys like John Kilde Jr., Scott Colbeck and Jared Schultz, I feel really humbled.”

In eighth grade, Nersten learned he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a lingering ailment that affects the intestines, among other body parts. Nersten’s play was affected, but during his sophomore year he received news that no athlete wants to hear — unable to perform.

“Once my sophomore year came, my disease was a big problem and I couldn’t play basketball,” said Nersten, who is considering North Dakota State University and Northwestern College, and will choose between pre-med dentistry or mathematics education. “Even though I couldn’t play, I enjoyed watching our team. I learned a lot from some of the seniors of how to lead a team and how to work as a team. Since it was our state year, I definitely do wish I could have played, but I’m just glad to have been a part of that state run and to be a member of a team with so many quality guys. As hard it was for me not playing, God still blessed me through the experience.”

While Nersten has fond memories of his sophomore year, he also learned a valuable lesson.

“When I came back from sitting out a year, it made me realize how I don’t have the right to play, but the privilege to play,” he said.

The young man didn’t lose faith, and was cleared to play basketball his junior year.

“First of all, I thanked God for healing me and for being faithful to me. The first few months back, I was excited every day for being able to be back on the court or field,” Nersten said.

The Fergus Falls native indicates that his Comet teams are expected to keep their priorities straight.

“I do consider my teammates and coaches as family members. We have a great bond of friendship that not too many people get to experience. As a team, we are to encourage each other no matter the circumstance, and honor Jesus Christ on and off the court and field,” he said.

Nersten, a member of Hillcrest’s 2012 Dominican Republic mission team, is quick to credit his Hillcrest family, which includes teammates and coaches Gregg Preston, HLA’s basketball coach, and baseball coach Steve Nersten, along with his family, in particular his parents, Craig and Elizabeth.

“Being able to have such a supporting family has strengthened me throughout my career and will definitely continue through this baseball season,” said Nersten. “It truly is a blessing to have parents who care and really want me to do my best. I thank God for them and for all the time my dad has put into helping me thrive as an athlete and grow as young man of God.”

One of his favorite parts of this year’s basketball season was to play basketball with his brother, Daniel, a sophomore.

“Playing basketball with Daniel this season has been one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “I will really miss playing with him.”

The senior looks forward to helping the Comets in baseball this spring, and being a good example for his younger siblings, including his sister, Kelsey, who is Daniel’s twin.

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