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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 09 2012

Large family, big success for NDSU sprinter


The exchange student from Korea was in a Warroad, Minn., school bus that was passing by the DuWayne and Miriam Heppner home when he realized something – the house looked familiar.

The kid later learned it was featured in the 2007 The Learning Channel reality television series called “Kids by The Dozen.” It was a favorite of his mother back in Korea.

“Small world, big world,” DuWayne said.

There isn’t much small about the world of his son Moses, a sprinter at North Dakota State who will try to help the Bison win a Summit League outdoor track and field championship at NDSU’s Ellig Sports Complex. It starts today and runs through Saturday.

Moses is one of 16 Heppner children who range from 8 years old to 33. He’s been part of a team his entire life. His recruitment turned into one of the more interesting home visits in the career of veteran Bison head coach Don Larson.

There were 11 children still living at home at the time, and dinner turned into an ice fishing trip with Larson and DuWayne, better known as “Spud” around Warroad. Before they left, there was a picture-taking session that Larson said he’ll never forget. Warroad may be better known for hockey, but NDSU found a home-schooled runner who is making a difference.

“I still don’t know how my mom kept us all under control,” Moses said. “I just can’t imagine having that many kids.”

Moses was a sophomore in high school at the time of the reality show, which he calls an accurate portrayal of the family. Miriam was the teacher. To help with organization, the kids were limited in their extracurricular activities to soccer, cross country and track.

Moses said six brothers and three sisters competed in track. Joseph still holds the Warroad school record in the 2-mile run. Earlier this week, Susanna was part of the 3,200-meter relay that broke the Warroad school record. Last week, Moses broke a mental barrier that was weighing on him for some time: a sub-1:50 in the 800.

He ran a 1:49.72, which broke an Ellig record and ranks as the fifth-fastest in NDSU history. There was family karma going on with that, too. When Moses toed the starting line in the NDSU vs. UND dual, Miriam was back in Warroad at another meet; her palms sweating.

At about the time she figured Moses crossed the finish line, she called one of her sons at the Ellig Sports Complex and when she got the news, she started celebrating 200 miles away.

“Their emotions were connected,” DuWayne said.

His time qualified Moses for the NCAA West Preliminary Round regional track meet in Austin, Texas, in two weeks.

“There’s a big stress in trying to do that because you’ve been working so long and you know what’s at stake if you don’t,” Moses said.

There are still instances when Moses gets recognized as one of those kids in the TV show. It took until his last year at home before college, but he finally got his own bedroom.

“But there was no privacy,” he said, “which is fine because we’re all so close-knit.”

It’s a big family weekend in other ways than track. One son is graduating from college. At Ellig, it’s a good bet Moses will have the largest family following of anybody. Then again, it’s not really a fair fight for that distinction. There’s a TV show to prove it.

“There was some of the chaotic-ness of the family in there, but you could see all the love we have for each other,” Moses said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia