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Gold for Gracie: two communities come together to remember Gracie Johnsrud

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 3:33 PM CDT
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HAZEN, N.D. - The Johnsruds are a football family.

Bret Johnsrud coaches the Hazen Bison. His brother, Justin, coaches Watford City. Justin’s son, Judd, plays for his dad.

On Friday night, it was Johnsrud versus Johnsrud, as the brother’s teams took the field against each other.

Hazen won the game, 40-14, but this game was about more than just the final score.

This game was about two communities coming together to remember one special young lady.

Gold for Gracie
Gold for Gracie(Heidi Kaylor)

These are the nights Gracie Johnsrud lived for. She grew up around football, tagging along to practice and games with her dad.

Last month, Gracie passed away in a car crash. Her family has been trying to adjust to life without her.

“We were really close,” said her brother, Judd, a sophomore at Watford City high school.

On this night, Gracie was on everyone’s minds, as her dad and brother faced her uncle’s team.

For one night, fans from both teams put the rivalry aside and wore gold for Gracie.

“It was really nice seeing both of the communities and both of the teams coming together for the greater cause,” said Kanyon Tschetter, a senior football player from Watford City.

“It has been amazing the amount of support you get and seeing it,” added Hazen football coach and Gracie’s uncle, Bret Johnsrud.

“It was fun to see everyone come together and cheer for each other,” said Kaison Kaylor, a junior on the Hazen football team.

“It was something we’ve never really seen before and it was touching,” recalled Watford City junior football player Carson Voll.

“It was an emotional game for quite a few players. It’s more than a game really,” added Adin Jungers, a senior football player for Hazen.

“It shows so much about North Dakotans at heart,” said Gracie’s mom, Nikki Johnsrud. “When one of us is hurting, we will rally and try to help someone else out.”

It is what the Johnsrud family has come to call a “Gracie moment.”

“She would have loved everything about that game,” said Nikki.”Of course, she would have liked to have had a better outcome. She would have told you that too and she would have told her dad that and she would have told these boys that too!”

“It kind of puts, it kind of puts football in perspective, or anything else. You know, it’s just a game,” Gracie’s dad, Justin, reflected.

Just a game, that on this night, just felt different and special. '

“Just the entire atmosphere around the whole game was something special,” explained Justin. “Everybody was there for kind of the same reason.”

That reason – to remember Gracie Johnsrud. And on this very special night, even the sky donned a spectacular shade of gold. A Gracie moment this family will treasure forever.

Gracie was studying elementary and special education at Black Hills State University.

The 20-year-old was active on campus and will be honored at their home football game on Thursday.

She will also be honored at Watford City’s home opener on Friday night.

Several scholarships have been established in her memory at Watford City, Hazen and Black Hills State.

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