It was basketball that first brought Michelle Juehring to the Quad-Cities.
It was something else that kept her here.
It was 1996 and Juehring, a former high school athlete from Onalaska, Wisconsin, was working on her master's degree at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. As part of that, she had managed to land an internship with the Quad-City Thunder of the Continental Basketball League.
"The idea was to come down here and work for a little bit," said Juehring, who was then Michelle Burnett.
"And then I fell in love with the town."
She’s still here more than two decades later and is about to make her mark in a completely different sport. She is the future race director of one of the largest road races in the country, the Quad-City Times Bix 7, and will be replacing one of the icons of the sport, Ed Froehlich, about a year-and-a-half from now.
She already has been following Froehlich and director of operations Ellen Hermiston around to see what they do and how they do it in preparation to fill a role Froehlich has held since 1980.
"She’s working with us right now, learning how to take over the whole thing," Froehlich said. "She’ll do that for two years. I think that’s a good training period. It took me 37 years to learn how to do it. She’ll do a good job. She’s a leader, and she comes over very well, and she has a lot of support in her family."
It’s a great choice. Juehring has a vibrant personality and an extensive background in marketing. She’s 51 but seems younger.
Froehlich, who is 71, certainly views her as young.
"I didn’t want somebody in their sixties who would only do it for four or five years," he said. "I’m looking for Michelle to stay there for 15 years."
Hermiston, who was Froehlich’s secretary for many years in his insurance business, also is going to retire following the 2019 Bix 7. There are some who will tell you she works even harder than Froehlich to make the 44-year-old race successful. When Froehlich fell ill early in the summer of 2015, Hermiston took control and oversaw that year’s race pretty much by herself.
"Ellen is a very important part of this whole process," Juehring said.
Longtime Bix 7 volunteer Laura Torgerud already is training to help in that area.
But Juehring will do just fine in this job. She has been part of the Bix 7 hierarchy for about 15 years, starting when she worked in the marketing department of the Times, and has overseen the race’s fitness expo for five years.
She’s the daughter of a former school superintendent, the mother of two children (ages 12 and 14) and the director of children’s ministries at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport. She’s married to Dave Juehring, a former Davenport West and Iowa State discus and shot put star and Olympic bobsledder who is now the director of rehabilitation services for Palmer College of Chiropractic.
She is a fitness fanatic who has done marathons and Ironman triathlons.
She’s also a breast cancer survivor. She overcame that obstacle 11 years ago and never has looked back. Not much anyway.
"It’s always a little bit in the back of your mind, but we’re good," Juehring said.
With everything she has overcome and all the things she juggles in her daily life, running a little race with 15,000 participants, a junior race, a sprint event, 5,000 volunteers and 115 different committees may not be that big a deal.
Of course, it doesn’t help that a large portion of the race’s committee chairmen came aboard decades ago as friends of Froehlich, and there is a concern that when he goes, they’ll all go.
Froehlich has told everyone to do what he’s doing: Groom a successor.
"I would imagine that soon there will be a big transition," he said. "That’s why I wanted to start three years out. I told everybody that nobody can quit until you train somebody to do your job."
It helps that most of the big committees have been chopped up into little ones.
"We probably only had 15 or 20 chairmen in the early years," Froehlich said. "Now we have 115 so nobody has a real big job."
You get the feeling that no matter what happens, Juehring will handle it, if only by the sheer force of her enthusiasm.
"This is a dream come true," she said. "This is a dream job right here. I’m excited. I’m ready."