Terry Olson recently returned from the Minnesota Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a 2019 recipient, but didn't have much to say about his 40-plus years of work or successes in the sport. Instead he took home memories of the family of great runners he's had the privilege of coaching and learning from.
Keynote speaker at the event was Dr. Cindra Kamphoff, marathoner, and professor who is a high performance coach for leaders, businesses and championship teams. She has a Ph.D. in performance psychology and spoke on the topic of mental toughness. It brought to mind two runners close to Olson -- Olson's daughter Johanna, who died of a brain tumor at age 33 and Gabe Grunewald, who, more recently, died of cancer at age 32.
"To me those two kids are an example of always being mentally tough," Olson said. "No matter what the situation was, they could look ahead and remain tough."
Both girls had great successes in running and sought to always reach the next goal before them. A pro running distance coach was also at the hall of fame event and recalled coaching both Gabe and Johanna. The discussion about Grunewald and Johanna at an event honoring Olson's coaching made for an emotional evening.
"How those things kind of meshed together was neat and of course sad at the same time," Olson said.
Olson recalls Grunewald writing a letter to Johanna when Johanna was going through her struggles caused by brain tumors.
"Gabe wrote her a really nice note," Olson said. Gabe was about eight years younger than Johanna, but even so, they knew each other, only separated by about 24 miles.
"Gabe was a Perham kid who won a lot and Johanna also won a lot. There are a lot of similarities," Olson said.
Olson said the ceremony was enjoyable and what was said really came to rest at home for him. He returned home with a hat as an award and he wore it proudly with his "Brave like Gabe" T-shirt.
Olson attended the event with WDC High School principal Tyler Church, AD Norm Gallant and cross-country coach Mike Brunsberg. Also there were runners Olson once coached including Jeff Metzdorf, who owns running store; Jeff Lindlief, Eden Prairie coach; and Chad Bartels, a Wayzata coach. It was clear that Olson had shared his gift of running with many others, who are now sharing their gifts as well. Sharing gifts is something that reminds Olson of his daughter Johanna and a quote she was known to use.
"The meaning of life it to find your gift. The purpose is to give it away."
He said he plans to continue coaching until it's not fun anymore. Olson, 69, believes he has a ways to go yet. What keeps interested in the sport, he said, is how much joy he gets out of seeing an athlete running in great form.
"I just really love to see people run well," Olson said.