A-G runners honor fallen teammate at meet

A-G runners honor fallen teammate at meet

From left, Ayden-Grifton senior cross country athletes Jamar Daniels, Caleb Litchfield, Trey Hill and Max Norris wear arm bands to honor Allyssa Colclough, who committed suicide several years ago. Photo by Scott Cole / Neuse News

AYDEN -- Death is a natural thing in this world -- it is coming eventually for everyone, but even then it hurts when it does. When it happens to someone young, the pain is increased. In the past year, tragedy has struck both the South Lenoir High School and North Lenoir High School communities as children who were teammates, family and friends were lost.

Four years ago, Ayden Middle School was struck by a tragedy when Allyssa Colclough took her life at the age of 13. It was believed bullying drove her to take this most extreme of measures. While people will never fully understand the pain and sadness she felt, her friends have not forgotten her.

On Wednesday, Ayden-Grifton hosted an Eastern Carolina 2A cross country match against Washington and South Lenoir. The seniors of the Ayden-Grifton team wore black armbands with Colclough’s initials on them to honor their friend, who would have been a senior and would have been running with them on this hot August afternoon.

“She ran at the middle school with my son, Eli,” Chargers coach Mike Dawson said. “She had ties with a lot of these kids. This is a big deal for them and that makes this an emotional match for them. They wanted to wear these armbands for her as a way to honor her and remember her.”

Caleb Litchfield, one of the seniors, remembered her fondly.

“She was a nice, pretty, smart girl," he said. "She was only 13 and it is a shame what happened. She ran track, she was in the band, she was involved with student government, she was in a lot of clubs. She is someone I look up to and I think of her every time I run.”

Litchfield, who placed 12th at the meet, added, “We wanted to bring awareness for bullying. If someone is out there and is being bullied, they can get help. We don’t want bullies to take another life."

South Lenoir swept the meet in the boys and girls categories, taking eight of the top 10 spots for boys and five of the top girl spots.

“It was a little bit of a struggle,” South Lenoir coach Carlos Dodd said. “It’s hot and humid out. There are a lot of hills here. This is a tough course, but we did well.”

Dodd also reflected on what the Ayden kids are going through in comparison to what happened at South Lenoir this past winter.

“It’s amazing what happens," he said. "There is the initial shock and sadness. But then after that, something beautiful happens. The community rallies around each other and we all help each other heal in the darkest moments. We become closer. I think that what the Ayden runners are doing to remember their friend is a great idea. It’s a great way to honor her memory."

Ayden-Grifton’s Eli Dawson was the top boys runner, completing the race in 20:14. He also reflected on what this race meant for his fallen teammate.

“She was the kindest person I ever met," he said. "She always had a smile on her face. She was supposed to come to practice that day and I always wondered what would have happened had she come out that day instead. She has always been on my mind and it was important for us to do something for her.”

South Lenoir took the next four places in the boys' meet, with Ian Ireland, Brian Zeagle, Eddie Leon and Liam Villa rounding out the top five. 

For the girls, South Lenoir’s Marina Castilla took first with a time of 25:19. South Lenoir also took places four and five, with Natalia Ayala and Caroline Edwards. Ayden-Grifton’s lone runner, Kristen Hardee, finished in eighth place.

For the Chargers, they did not want this to be a race of sadness, but one of hope. With a brand new school year started, the teenage years can always be a trying time. If you, or someone you know, is suspected of being bullied, there is hope. Talk to a pastor, a teacher, a counselor, a parent. Be a friend and help someone in need. The signs of depression may not always be obvious, but you never know what difference you can make in someone's life. 

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