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For Janae, it's all smiles ... and a crowning moment

The smile on Janae Sjodin's face was everything. But then someone must have said, "But wait, there's more."

Wrenshall High School principal Michelle Blanchard called it all "surreal," like "something out of a movie."

That Sjodin - the 2023 winter homecoming queen - was at the 2024 coronation on Friday, Feb. 9, to present new royalty was a real miracle.

Eleven months ago, she was driving home with her sister Jaela after softball practice when their SUV was hit on Janae's side by a driver who didn't see a stop sign. Jaela was slightly injured. Janae took the brunt of the crash, breaking several bones and suffering head trauma.

Recovery began with a long stay at a Duluth hospital and then rehabilitation in Colorado. She returned home in October.

On Friday, there she was, all smiles, escorted by her fellow royalty from last year, Wes Ward, and her brother Jeshua. Blanchard said there weren't many dry eyes in a gymnasium packed with people following the varsity boys basketball win over Barnum.

Ward made quite the production of draping a cape on Lexi Swanson, the new homecoming queen.

Then came the crescendo moment, as if one were needed. Janae placed the 2024 king's crown on her brother Judah.

"I crown you King Judah," is what Pine Knot News photographer Dave Harwig said he heard from the newly minted 19-year-old.

"It was a very good night," said Janae's mother, Angela Sjodin. But she was exasperated. She kept a close eye on Janae, as did her father, Erick, from the stands.

Janae has come a long way in being more mobile, and she's certainly more verbal, Angela said. But she does get tired easily, and her short-term memory isn't as strong as her long-term memory.

"I told Judah, 'this is about you guys,'" Angela said of the homecoming court. "My job was to get Janae through the night."

Angela laughed a few days after the big night. "As a parent, you just try to deal with one emotion at a time," she said. Homecoming night saw emotions blasting through her. "I can't handle this emotional rollercoaster," she said.

"I don't know the word," Blanchard said of the standing ovation Janae received while "she was just beaming."

"Beautiful, really," Blanchard said.

Janae has been to games at the school this winter to support her siblings. When she first returned home, her mother said Janae wasn't sure if she could see people right away. It was a lot for her.

Now, "she loves seeing everybody," Angela said, noting that it's nights like Homecoming, with so many people rooting for her, where she sees Janae "take on their energy" and shine.

Janae didn't want to leave after the coronation.

"She has come a long way," Blanchard said, not only since the crash but since she's been showing up at the school. "She has a word she uses. 'Thriving.' She's thriving. It's amazing how far she's come. ... And she's always beaming. Her smile just fills up a room."

Angela said the coronation was another event in a year in which anything close to normal helps.

"It was really exciting," she said. "But there are so many other things in the forefront. All this past year, it's been faith and family."

It was quite the family affair last week.

"Her mom keeps things real," Blanchard said. "I'm excited to see where Janae goes the next few months."