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From Germany to Lafayette: Ragin' Cajun track star's life has come full circle

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Sports can take you places.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s newest freshman track & field star, Hannes Burger, traveled over 5,000 miles to become a Ragin’ Cajun, and he’s relishing every opportunity.

Recently, the German native turned heads with his record-setting performance at the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Indoor Track & Field Championship. Burger set a new Ragin’ Cajun record time for the 5,000-meter race, clocking in at 14:42.68. In addition, his 23 total points propelled him forward to finish as the competition’s top male scorer.

“I run because it’s fun,” Burger said. “It’s definitely fulfilling, and I’ve been running forever. It’s hard to explain the feeling and the rush. Running in really beautiful scenery is like the nicest thing ever. That’s probably my favorite thing about it.”

Originally from Munich, Germany, Burger has always been enamored with the thrill of competition from an early age. He began playing sports when he was around 7 years old with his little brother, who was 5 at the time. He remembers he and his brother would play soccer and other sports in the house until his mother eventually made them go down to the running club.

As Burger got older, he began to focus in on track, and he started to gain confidence in his abilities after a memorable completion time in the 5,000-meter race.

“When I was around 11 or 12, I ran a really good 5k time,” Burger said. “That’s when I realized I probably had some talent for running. You cannot know when you’re 11 that things will work out, but that was when I really started trying to get better and training more.”

Through hard work and continued perseverance, Burger eventually made his way onto big stages, most notably when he finished third-place in the 3,000-meters at the German Indoor Under-20 Championships, recorded top times in the 3,000-meters (8:30.21) and 5,000-meters (14:38.10) as a member of Läuferclub Buchendorf and top times in the 800-meters (1:54.81) and 1,500-meters (3:53.33) at the 2018 Sparkassen Gala.

When he got the scholarship offer to become a Ragin’ Cajun, he was ecstatic, but he also detailed some of the challenges that come with having to leave your family and friends back at home. Burger spends four-month stints in Lafayette for the spring and fall semesters and envies native students who can see their loved ones on a few hours notice.

“I have a girlfriend in Germany, so that’s probably the hardest part,” Burger said. “(People who live here), if they have a (significant other) at home, they can just go there with a short, few-hour drive …. You don’t really have a chance to (travel abroad) with track.”

Despite the challenge, Burger said it’s worth it because of the benefits of coming to America and being coached by full-time coaches, as opposed to the part-time coaching he received in Germany. He also said he values the facilities at UL Lafayette and the benefits of on-campus housing.

“In my opinion, It’s definitely a lot harder in Germany, especially if you’re not part of the national team,” Burger said. “It’s a lot more expensive compared to having a full scholarship here ... Also, (at UL Lafayette), we have a training room with professional coaches whose only job is to coach, but in Germany, most coaches have a separate job and their hobby is to coach. It’s easier to come to the United States.”

As his time as a Ragin’ Cajun continues, Burger’s ambition continues to drive him. He said he has lofty goals for the future of his career.

“I want to star for the German national team,” Burger said. “I also want to go to the European championships. And if I make it to the European championships, I’d like to go to the world championships and then become an Olympian.”

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