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Senior goes extra mile for family

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(TARAH JOHNSON/EYE OF THE TIGER)

(TARAH JOHNSON/EYE OF THE TIGER)

(TARAH JOHNSON/EYE OF THE TIGER)

ZACH JOSE and WILL WAGNER

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(COURTESY/JESS VANDERHAGEN)

Senior Jessica VanDerHaegen ran in support of her grandmothers, her uncle and her aunt, and did so alongside hundreds of other cancer survivors and fighters.

VanDerHaegen ran the “Shamrock’n half marathon on March 12, a benefit for a Triumph Cancer Foundation. Triumph is a non-profit organization based in Sacramento whose proceeds go to help people impacted by cancer.

VanDerHaegen’s family has been affected by the disease for most of her life. As she went through high school, VanDerHaegen made it a goal to complete a half marathon before her eighteenth birthday.

“My grandma had breast cancer, my other grandma had ovarian cancer, my uncle had throat cancer, and my aunt just got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, so the run was all in honor of them,” VanDerHaegen said.

VanDerHaegen’s years of competing in track and soccer fostered a love of running and prepared her for the half marathon.

“It was fun, but I think that’s because I’ve been training for it,” VanDerHaegen said. “I’ve been doing sports for so long, so I was definitely ready.”

VanDerHaegen not only achieved a lifelong personal goal of hers by completing the run, but she also won first place in her age division with an overall time of 1:55:39. Along with honoring her family’s battle with cancer, VanDerHaegen felt the run tested her boundaries and was a rewarding challenge.

Even though she ran solo, her favorite memory from the half marathon was all of the other people at the event, whether it be fellow runners or even the supporters cheering them on.

“It made it a lot easier to run with all the people around me for the same cause and all for the same goal,” VanDerHaegen said.

Jessica’s mom Cami VanDerHaegen is proud of her for not only running the event, but for running the Shamrock’n half marathon specifically because it raises funds for cancer research and represents something the family hold near to their hearts.

“I’m proud that she went out and did that in honor of her entire family,” Cami said. “It’s awesome, this means a lot to me, and presumably most of the family, so we are all very happy for her.”

Her run even inspired a few of her friends to run alongside her in the future. VanDerHaegen also hopes to help train her mom and sister to join as well.

Senior Delaney Grimes, one of VanDerHaegen’s close friends at Roseville High School, was amazed by VanDerHaegen’s personal growth throughout training, and eventually running the half marathon.

“It was amazing to watch Jessica go through this entire journey of the half marathon knowing how hard and vigorously she worked every day,” Grimes said. “It was really cool to see all these different schedules that she went through and know that she faced a lot of challenges with it and she overcame everything. With all the trials and tribulations that she faced and got over, it was truly amazing to see her do this.”

VanDerHaegen’s Grandfather, Mike VanDerHaegen, is proud of his grandaughter’s accomplishments and hopes to see her particpate in her next adventure.

“I am proud to call her my granddaughter,” Mike said. “I hope to see her next run and I hope to see her walk the stage at graduation.”

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