2 years after being badly burned, UT runner competes at nationals

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Two years ago, if you would've told Janelle Noe she would be competing in the NCAA National Championship, her reaction would've been one of disbelief.

"No, you're crazy," she said, "I want to get back to running, but I don't think it would get to that point, but now that I'm here I'm glad my past self didn't get discouraged by thinking that."

After Noe was badly burned at a house party in January of 2016, being a healthy athlete and running were what her doctors and nurses said would be key in her recovery.

"When I was in the hospital, my nurses and doctors told me that you're healing better than most burn patients because you're an athlete," Noe said, "I think that was a driving force for me with running, it'll help me heal better, and I think it has."

While Noe has had her hardships, relying on faith, family and friends, she has worked to better herself on the track.

And just two weeks ago, that hard work paid off.

Noe ran a personal best in the 1500, finishing in just 4:16:34.

This qualified her for nationals and made her the first Rocket to go there since 2016.

"It's amazing, it's more than I could ever ask for, honestly, it's really a blessing to be able to make it out there," she said.

The trip to Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon won't be the first for Noe.

She raced on that track her freshman year in the junior nationals, but heading back this time is extra special.

"I think it's really something special to be able to go out there and be a part of the last NCAA Championships on the historic Hayward Field," Noe said, "It's just so amazing to go out there and have another chance to go race on that track."

Besides the incident, Noe has been riddled with injuries throughout her career, making this the first time she's been able to have constant, quality training, something she says led to her shaving 13 seconds off her time.

"Really this past winter I just focused on hitting my runs hard and taking care of myself and everything and I think that's really one of the driving forces behind being able to improve is having constant, quality training," she said.

Given everything she's gone through to get to this point in her career, head coach Ling Nguyen said that it's great to see her reach milestones he knew she could.

"Sometimes people go through a college career and never realize the potential they have, and I think she's starting to realize the potential and we're seeing how great it is," Nguyen said, "She's inspired her teammates a lot this year and I think it's elevating the whole team."

As for Noe, she hopes to continue inspiring others, one race at a time.

"I think God gave me a purpose to motivate people who've gone through hard times to not give up and I hope to motivate some people to go out there and try something that they love to do and don't think they can do it anymore. I mean it's not the easiest route to get through, honestly, I still struggle every day, and it's hard, but I think it's a testament to what your mind can do, and what hard work can do," she said.

Noe will race in the semifinal Thursday, with hopes of making it the finals Saturday.

In addition, Toledo petitioned the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility for Noe.

That has been granted, so she will be able to run track for the Rockets again next year.

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