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Amputee athlete Hunter Bork dies at 23

Hunter Bork, an inspirational amputee athlete from Mount Vernon, has died, Dakota Wesleyan University confirmed Wednesday.

Bork, 23, competed for the Tigers track and field team and was battling osteosarcoma bone cancer since the day before his 18th birthday. He died Tuesday night.

"He was an inspiration to all of our kids," DWU Athletic Director Curt Hart said. "It's just too bad that bad things happen to good people."

Bork lost his left leg to the disease and had multiple surgeries to remove tumors, which spread to his neck and spine. Bork, who graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 2009, was still able to compete athletically because he used a special running prosthesis.

In June 2011, Bork competed at the Paralympics in Miramar, Fla., for DWU and won the high jump with a mark of 4 feet, 10.25 inches. The leap was an American record. He also competed in the 100-meter dash and the long jump.

"It feels awesome, and it was really good to go down there and work hard for it," he told The Daily Republic after winning the high jump. "I was ready to compete, and I was going to do my best to win it. I was pretty ecstatic once I did."

The banner showing Bork's accomplishment still hangs over DWU track and field coach Pat Belling's office on campus. Bork competed for the Tigers from 2009 to 2011.

"He absolutely made a huge impact on my life," Belling said. "He's one of the strongest and most resilient people I've ever met. I'm very fortunate to have been able to work with him for the couple years he was here. I'm going to miss him dearly, and I'm not the only one."

Ernie Bork, Hunter's father, estimated in December his son had endured 15 surgeries because of the disease. After having his leg amputated, Bork's cancer went into remission, but it returned in 2011.

Funeral arrangements are pending with Kober Funeral Home in Vermillion.