MINNEAPOLIS - Methodically, Gabriele Anderson motors around the University of Minnesota track. Singularly focused, she has her sights set on gaining a spot on the United States Olympic team in the women's 1500 meter race. The Olympic Trials is set for late June in Eugene, Oregon.
She'll have her work cut out for her. The Americans are loaded in the 1500 meter women's talent pool.
Right now, the former Gopher has the fifth best time in the country in the event. But dealing with obstacles and challenges is something Anderson is all too used to. "It's been a journey", she admits.
The Perham, Minnesota native was breezing through her budding college career at the U, when all of a sudden, she was forced to stop.
"I could definitely feel it. It wasn't big by any means, but it just didn't feel right." What she felt was a lump in her neck that turned out to be adenoid cystic carcinoma.
Anderson was treated for the cancer with months of radiation therapy. Her distance dreams were put in the distance as she turned her focus to recovery and regaining her strength.
Anderson came back for her senior season at Minnesota, and began to truly blossom. But a year and a half after the first diagnosis, she was diagnosed again.
"I ended up having a biopsy on another lymph node, and it ended up being thyroid cancer, which I wasn't expecting", Anderson said.
After surgery to remove her thyroid, she eventually resumed running again, and has maintained a clean bill of health, as she pursues her Olympic dream.
"I don't think she dwells on the cancer at all. I think she sees her time on the track as something special. That she has this gift and she's just going to make the most of it", explains her coach Dennis Barker.
Anderson's positive attitude is hard to deny. "I feel so lucky that I'm still able to run and pursue those dreams. I really try to just be thankful and that maybe all this has happened for a reason, to strengthen me and be a positive model", she says.
Anderson will have a few different meets in which she'll try to hit that Olympic Trials qualifying standard. Either way, she's going to end up being a pretty terrific role model.
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