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College runner almost burned to death in a prank gone wrong makes the ultimate comeback

Janelle Noe was burned within an inch of her life, but two years later she is an NCAA finalist. (Photo: Twitter)

In 2016, University of Toledo senior Janelle Noe felt that her life was changing but, in her own words, “not for the better.”

Noe was attending an off-campus house party. She didn’t drink, so she was hoping to hang out with a few of her friends from the track team and maybe serve as their designated driver when, an hour into the party, things got out of hand.

A fellow student-athlete started to walk around the house with a can of air freshener and a lighter. Noe told him to stop, but he continued.

She said, “…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.”


More than 50 percent of Noe’s body was covered in second, third and third-degree deep burns.

The student-athlete who caused the fire was sentenced to four months in jail and 800 hours of community service.

Eventually, Noe’s doctor gave her the okay to start running again. What started out jogging around her yard has turned into something more: her comeback story.


Janelle Noe is now a finalist in one of the most prestigious college meets in the nation — which wasn’t an easy task.

The NCAA East Preliminary Championships occurred in Tampa, Florida, which could have been a detriment to the young runner. Her burns affect her temperature regulation.

Her first-round 1500-meter race, which was scheduled to take place in the evening, was moved to 2 p.m. Still, she was able to run 4:17:20 to advance to the next round, where she ran her personal best at 4:16:34 and qualified for the NCAA championships.

She told Runner’s World“When I crossed the finish line, I was so happy. I couldn’t stop saying, ‘I made it, I made it,’ because I couldn’t believe it.”


It hasn’t been an easy road for Noe, but it certainly serves as an inspiration to others. She said, “If you put your mind and heart into what you want to do, you’ll be able to do more than you think is possible and you can really surprise yourself. I surprised myself.”

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