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Mahwah Woman Running NYC Marathon Keeps Memory Of Late High School Friend Alive

Jessica Ohnikian of Mahwah is running the New York City Marathon in honor of Dan Zolotorofe, who died at 20 years old from complications of juvenile diabetes.
Jessica Ohnikian of Mahwah is running the New York City Marathon in honor of Dan Zolotorofe, who died at 20 years old from complications of juvenile diabetes. Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Clear eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t lose.

When Jessica Ohnikian of Mahwah feels like she can’t run anymore, that’s what she tells herself. And somehow, she keeps going.

The saying reminds herself of her childhood and high school friend Dan Zolotorofe, who adopted the "Friday Night Lights" motto as his own, before he died suddenly in 2011 from complications of juvenile diabetes.

Ohnikian, 27, on Sunday morning will be running the New York City Marathon in Dan's memory.

With the motto on her jersey.

“Anyone who hears that saying just associates it with Dan,” Ohnikian said. “I think about it, and it makes me run harder."

Ohnikian says Dan's 2011 death was initially what inspired her to start running.

“It took a couple years after he passed away to bounce back from the sadness and anger,” she said. “But I wanted to turn a negative into a positive.”

And so, she began with two half marathons, raising nearly $6,000 for the Dan Zolotorofe Foundation , launched by his family.

This time around, Ohnikian is going the distance, 26.2 miles, with a goal of doing what Dan did: "Turning any situation into a positive one."

“We could dwell on this or make light of it and make a difference. There is really nobody else in the world I’d do it for, other than Dan.”

Ohnikian has raised more than $9,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation through her marathon training. Click here to donate.

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