Two years after severe burns covered over half her body, Toledo runner advances to NCAA finals

Jack Baer
Yahoo Sports Contributor
Janelle Noe has defied unfathomable odds to reach the 1500m finals at the NCAA Championships. (@ToledoXCTF/Twitter)

12 runners will compete in the women’s 1500m finals at the 2018 NCAA Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, on Saturday. All 12 will have their own stories of dedication and perseverance, of training and sacrifice. But one of their stories stands out with a comeback that borders on miraculous.

That story is of Janelle Noe, a senior from the University of Toledo who will run on Saturday despite severe burns covering over half her body after a horrific incident at a house party in 2016.

Per Runner’s World, Noe almost didn’t make it to the NCAA Championships due to her body still struggling with temperature regulation, which was a problem at the preliminary rounds in Tampa, Fla. Thanks to bags of ice, a misting fan and a tent, Noe was still able to make it to Oregon, where she will compete on Saturday for one of the most incredible wins in NCAA history.

And yet, looking at the details given to Toledo’s WTOL, it’s a wonder Noe is even able to live normal life.

“It was basically gasoline”

Going back to January 2016, Noe was reportedly invited to a party by former Toledo student athlete Christopher Housel as a “self-proclaimed designated driver.” The party apparently went south quickly, when Noe stopped Housel from trying to create a blowtorch with an air freshener. It got so, so much worse from there.

Fair warning: these details are not for the squeamish.

“Then next thing I know, he’s like walking in through the living room archway into another room. And he was walking towards me, and he had a candle, like this big lit candle in his hand. And down to his side, he was carrying a bottle of Everclear, which he had told me earlier that night, because I didn’t know what it was, that it was basically gasoline. And so the next thing I know, he like poured it on to the candle, and I was on fire. That’s all I remember.”

Per the report, party attendees eventually doused the fire with a blanket, but not before horrific burns had covered the majority of Noe’s body. She was immediately taken to a nearby burn ward by ambulance, where doctors told her more than 50 percent of her body was covered in second, third and “third degree deep burns.” The worst damage was reportedly located on Noe’s chest and neck, to the point that she was told she would have died had the burns continued for just seconds longer.

Housel would later be sentenced to four months in jail in a plea deal to avoid charges of felony aggravated result, per WTOL.

Janelle Noe’s incredible comeback

After spending time in the burn ward and in physical therapy, Noe was able to put her running shoes back on. She steadily made progress and was able to return to the team a year and a half after the incident, but she felt the incident had put her “back to below square one,” in a quote given to Runner’s World.

And yet, Noe just kept getting better as she continued to compete. By the end of 2017, she neared her old personal best and during the indoor season. By March, she set a new conference record in the 1500m. And now, she’s in Oregon, about to compete with the best runners in the NCAA.

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