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Olson kept going after learning about her cancer

Johanna Olson was known to most as a gifted runner, but it was the fighter in her that gave her 15 years of life after she learned she had cancer.

Olson, 33, died Jan. 3. She was the daughter of Wadena-Deer Creek Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Terry Olson and his wife, Jane Bagstad. Johanna lived and worked in Bend, Ore., and Terry said his daughter loved running in the mountains.

When it came to running, Terry said, his daughter was totally on board. Johanna enjoyed competing, running fast, running distance, hard workouts and coaching.

Johanna graduated from WDC in 1997 and from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa in 2001. She was a star runner at both schools. She was also a runner-up in the Class A state cross country meet for WDC three times and helped the 1996 WDC girls claim team state championship honors.

She was also inducted into the Luther College Hall of Fame in 2011, in honor of her many cross-country and track and field achievements. One of the highlights of her college career was winning the Division III cross country championship in 2000. Another was running anchor for Luther's distance relay in the 2001 Indoor National Championship.

Johanna was an All-American in both cross country and track and field at Luther College. She ran in the Olympic Trials Marathon in 2004 and 2008. She led "Team Joha" in the 2012 Twin Cities Marathon and finished the race despite treatment for a second brain tumor.

Terry said Johanna was planning to take a long distance bike trip with him and a trip to Hawaii with her sister, Marney, even though she knew she could not count on being able to make them.

I never met Johanna, but I have been privileged to witness the courage of a young person with a serious disease or injury more than once. They may not be able to win races, score touchdowns or hit home runs anymore, but somehow they find it in themselves to face the ordeal they live each day.

A memorial service for Johanna will be held 2 p.m. Jan. 26, at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wadena.