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Solon Girls Track 'Running For Nora'

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SOLON, Iowa She's too young to understand. But Nora Sanderson has a lot of support from a lot of friends she doesn't know.

She also has a stake in their success.

The high school track and field season has reached the home stretch; state-qualifying meets (girls' regionals and boys' districts) are Thursday. It figures to be an extremely productive day for the Solon High School girls, one of the state's strongest teams in Class 3A.

And one of the most generous.

The Spartans are dedicating their regional meet to Sanderson, a 2-year-old from Ely who is battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. They raised pledges for a benefit fund, and in many cases, the amount is based upon Thursday's meet.

"A lot of girls are trying to raise $1 per (pledge, per state-qualifying individual event or relay)," said Spartans Coach Brent Sands.

If that's the case, each member of the Spartans' roster of 36 will raise $200 if the team gains 20 qualifiers with 10 pledges each from their regional meet at Grinnell.

That's the goal 20 qualifiers for the Spartans, $7,200 or more for the Sanderson family.

"It might be a stretch," said Mallory Carr, a senior long sprinter and middle-distance runner. "But we have some strong possibilities."

The Spartans have chosen a cause each of the past few seasons.

"We want the girls to understand that there's a big world out there, and a lot of people have it worse than you," Sands said. "It's my hope that everyone who goes through this program feels they are a part of a family, and can count on one another in a time of need."

Running for Nora is a natural cause. Nora's mother, Michaela (Manternach) Sanderson, was a 2002 Solon graduate and was a track athlete.

Nora was diagnosed in late November.

"She had some lingering viral symptoms, ear infections, stuff like that," said her father, Ben Sanderson. "She went from being a happy, energetic little kid to one that didn't have any energy."

Blood tests detected leukemia. Chemotherapy treatments at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital began in December and are scheduled to run through February 2015.

"The first 30 days were brutal, then she had a couple good months," said her father. "This current phase is hitting her hard."

The family took another blow two weeks ago, a fire in their garage. The blaze did not spread to the house, but smoke and soot did, damaging many belongings.

They have relocated temporarily with Michaela's parents in Solon.

Ben Sanderson said the Spartans' outreach "really has opened our eyes. We have a tough road, but we know there are a lot of good people out there. It helps us stay positive."

Carr did most of her solicitation for pledges with family and faculty.

"A lot of family that don't even live around here, they'd e-mail back and say they'd love to donate, what a great cause," she said.

"I think this project says we're people that are able and willing to go out and make a difference."

Pledges can be made through a Solon High School girls' track athlete or to Sands at Checks can be mailed to Brent Sands, Solon Community School, 301 S. Iowa St., Solon IA 52333.

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