When the Philipsburg-Osceola cross-country team found out that one of their assistant coaches, Renee Lanager, had been diagnosed with breast cancer over the summer, they knew they wanted to do something to help.
Without letting Lanager know what they were doing, the team started to sell bracelets and T-shirts to help raise money to help with her treatments and any other outstanding expenses incurred throughout her time off work.
Through their efforts, the team raised $770 and presented Lanager with a check for the money after the Oct. 1 meet with Clearfield, which marked her return from the initial round of treatments.
When she found out what her team had done, Lanager was — literally — speechless.
“I was shocked, overwhelmed, in disbelief; it was the furthest thing from my mind,” she said. “I had no idea what was going on, so all those emotions were coming up inside including being diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s all so surreal.”
With two surgeries already completed, and a third and — hopefully — final surgery scheduled, Lanager’s role with the team hasn’t changed, despite the demands of the healing process, head coach Jason McKenzie said.
“Lanager is still doing everything that she can do,” he said. “If the doctors say it’s okay for her to go running, she’s still out running with the team and doing everything she can and everything she’s always done.”
As soon as the news about Lanager broke, senior Joshua Rea knew the team had to come together for her cause. It’s Lanager, he said, who drives the team forward on hard days.
“She’s like the mom of the team. She’s always there supporting us and cheering us on,” Rea said. “Every race this year we say we’re ‘running for Lan’. So instead of ‘Mounties on 3,’ or ‘P-O on 3,’ it’s ‘Lan on 3.’
“We want everyone to know she’s the reason we’re running and that’s the reason we push through what we do.”
Senior Samantha Bainey said that Lanager’s ability to connect with students on a personal level is what inspired her to want to give back to her coach.
“She’s helped us a lot by not only being there for us as a coach, but also being there for us personally,” Bainey said. “Because she’s always been that close to us, we really wanted to give back to her.”
Once Lanager was able to find words again, she expressed her appreciation and gratitude to her team and staff for their efforts.
“I just thank them from the bottom of my heart for their kindness,” she said. “Hopefully someday I can give that back to them.”