Summer surgery doesn't slow up Koerber
During his five years at Jamestown College, not much has been able to slow up JJ Koerber. So it's not too surprising that cancer has done little to derail him either. Koerber, the top distance runner for the Jimmies virtually since stepping on ca...
During his five years at Jamestown College, not much has been able to slow up JJ Koerber.
So it's not too surprising that cancer has done little to derail him either.
Koerber, the top distance runner for the Jimmies virtually since stepping on campus in 2006, had been experiencing shooting pains in his groin dating back a couple of years, but he kept running through it. Finally last summer he decided to get it checked out.
After meeting with a specialist, he knew surgery was inevitable after a calcium deposit was discovered. But during the surgery, it was found that one of his testicles had cancer and that it too needed to be removed. Learning he had cancer was a shock, especially considering that initially he had been told there was only a three percent chance the growth would be cancerous.
"You hear the word 'cancer' and obviously that scares you," said Koerber. "But based on what the doctors told me, I was never really too worried."
In fact, after having the surgery on July 25, it took him just three weeks before he was back on an elliptical machine working out.
"That's JJ," said Jamestown College men's cross country coach Ed Crawford. "You would have never known he was going through this. You and I, we hear cancer and it'd be a pretty big jolt. With him, he got it taken care of and has never really missed a beat.
"But that's the type of kid he is. He's not going to sit around and mope or complain, and now here he is back running really well."
Nothing encapsulated Koerber's approach to the situation better than his first thought after surgery.
"I said, 'does this mean I'm as cool as Lance Armstrong now?'" he joked. "I was kind of worried about my mom, because she's the worrying type. But everything worked out pretty well."
He was laid up for about two weeks, but with the cross country season approaching he pushed himself to get ready. This season is his last as a collegiate runner. He'll graduate in December with a degree in criminal justice.
He missed the first meet of the season, but ran his first race Sept. 24 at the massive Griak meet in Minneapolis, which is near his hometown of North Branch, Minn.
He's wasted little time regaining his form. In three races he's been the top JC finisher each time, including a sixth-place finish at the Jimmie Invite at Hillcrest Golf Course on Oct. 14.
"You never really know what to expect after something like that. I guess maybe I've been a little pleasantly surprised with my results," he said. "Hopefully I can continue running well. I definitely want to make the most of it."
Crawford says his results have been very impressive considering the adversity he faced. The JC coach tried to stress often that other athletes like Armstrong and Steve Scott - a high school teammate of Crawford's in California who is considered one of the greatest American milers ever - also beat testicular cancer and went on to achieve great things.
"JJ is a team leader and a vocal guy. He has the respect of his teammates and that's not just because of what he's had to overcome, but because he does things the right way," Crawford said. "He's a really good example, really, for what you want in a college athlete."
After his "rough summer" as he calls it, he's not looking too far ahead. He's hoping to finish off his career strong, which nobody doubts he will. Most importantly, he's healthy and enjoying his final semester at Jamestown College and not worried about what lies ahead.
"I'm having a really good time with my friends and teammates and hopefully we can have a really good end to the season," he said, "and then we'll see where the wind blows me."
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at email@example.com