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Carlson: Why R4RYK inspires runners at Moore High School ever as they inspire us

Members of the Moore High School cross country team head for the starting line at the Moore War Run on Saturday morning. It was the team's first race since distance runners Rachel Freeman, Yuridia Martinez and Kolby Crum were hit and killed in February by a speeding driver. [JENNI CARLSON/THE OKLAHOMAN]
Members of the Moore High School cross country team head for the starting line at the Moore War Run on Saturday morning. It was the team's first race since distance runners Rachel Freeman, Yuridia Martinez and Kolby Crum were hit and killed in February by a speeding driver. [JENNI CARLSON/THE OKLAHOMAN]

MOORE — Some had the letters written in black marker on their shoulders.

Others had them on forearms or wrists.

R4RYK.

Run for Rachel, Yuridia and Kolby.

That has become the goal for cross country runners at Moore High School. Since a driver slammed his pickup into a group of distance runners last February, killing Rachel Freeman, Yuridia Martinez and Kolby Crum, their teammates have adopted the philosophy.

Saturday morning, they put it in motion.

For the first time this fall and the first time since the horror of that Monday afternoon last winter, Moore cross country toed the line. The Moore War Run provided the familiarity of competition. The excitement. The nerves. The exertion. But there were constant reminders of what happened almost seven months ago, too.

Before the race began, Tansey and Jeff Hellbusch stood near the starting line at the corner of Main and Eastern. They were with several family members, all wearing matching royal blue Moore War Run shirts.

They were Kolby’s parents.

A few minutes later, Jody Freeman walked up. There were smiles and laughter and hugs.

She was Rachel’s mom.

“It’s a bittersweet morning,” Freeman said. “They’d both be here running.”

Rachel and Kolby were seniors last year, but because the Moore War Run includes an open 5K, they would’ve been welcomed back.

And Yuridia? She’d have been a junior and might well have been one of the team’s leaders.

But instead of those three running, they were remembered.

There was a moment of silence for them as the cross country teams from Moore, Westmoore and Newcastle massed at the start line; a few runners wiped tears before the starter’s gun fired. There were signs along the course with pictures of Rachel, Yuridia and Kolby.

Not that Moore’s runners have to be reminded.

The past seven months have been filled with tough days. The first — and what the pandemic caused to be the only — track meet of the spring. Rachel’s birthday in April. Graduation. Kolby’s birthday in May. Court appearances by the driver who hit the group.

And there will be more difficulties. Yuridia’s birthday comes in November, for example.

Grieving and healing is an ongoing process. Moore athletic director Chad Mashburn said the ways the kids have managed their emotions are as numerous as they are. They are all different. They are all unique.

Some want to be left alone, forgotten by the outside world. They are trying to be normal high school students. They know what happened back in February.

Who cares if anyone else does?

Others fear the opposite.

Why doesn’t anyone seem to talk about them or care about them?

After all, the number of kids who were directly impacted by what happened go way beyond the seven who were physically hurt.

There were 12 kids running together in the groupl that included Rachel, Yuridia and Kolby. Then, there were other distance runners and members of the track team. Some witnessed the moment of impact. Others heard it and ran out of the fieldhouse or the stadium and saw things none of them should ever have had to see.

All told, the school estimates more than a hundred students were witness to what happened that day.

All are inspiring.

Saturday added another chapter to their story.

There was Shiloh Hutchinson, who suffered broken bones in her arm, leg and ankle in the crash. There was Ashton Baza, whose ankle was broken. There were Isaac Romero and Melany Alva and others who weren’t physically injured but were in the group that was hit. There were so many whose lives were changed but whose spirits weren’t broken.

Saturday morning, all of them put on their red and blue uniforms, laced up their shoes and ran.

R4RYK.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or jcarlson@oklahoman.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

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