Washington County high school students pay tribute to fallen classmates

Balloon launch before county track, field meet honors four who died in recent accidents

May 10, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE |
  • Students from several Washington County high schools release balloons at Williamsport High School Thursday in tribute to four of their classmates who passed away in recent months.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — Dozens of brightly-colored balloons rose slowly toward the sky Thursday afternoon over Williamsport High School, as hundreds of Washington County high school students paid tribute to four of their classmates who passed away in recent months.

Students stood in a line across the field inside the school’s track and released green, orange and blue balloons in remembrance of Quinn Hoover, Mitchell Akers, Brendon Colliflower and Samantha Kelly prior to the start of the annual Washington County Track & Field Championships.

Everyone remained standing during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner” and a long moment of silence that left many teary-eyed afterward.

The brief but emotional ceremony gave friends and the families of the late students a chance to come together to honor their classmates and children, and help the healing process, said a Williamsport parent who helped organize the ceremony with coaches.

“These kids were awfully upset,” Ann Kline, mother of Williamsport sophomore pole vaulter Brandon Kline, said afterward. “I just thought it would be a nice way to honor them.”

A strong sustained wind blew over the track after the balloons were released, ruffling the track suits, sweatshirts and uniforms of the athletes standing in silence. Everyone somberly watched as the balloons drifted up and out of sight.

Students hugged one another while others joined hand-in-hand in large circles before the groups from Williamsport, Smithsburg and Clear Spring high schools slowly walked off the field to get ready for the meet.

Outside the track, Styrofoam cups were placed in a chain-link fence, spelling out the word “HOPE” next to a large heart.

Kline said it shows how much county students mean to one another, even though they may attend different high schools.

In many ways, all the schools in the county are intertwined, and most students regularly interact with others in neighboring schools, especially since the rise of social media, Kline said.

Kline said it was nice to hear of students in other schools who were wearing blue this past week in honor of Williamsport seniors Colliflower and Kelly, both 17, who died in a car accident after the prom Saturday.

Akers, 18, a senior at Smithsburg, passed away April 11 after an accident at Municipal Stadium while working for the Hagerstown Suns.

Hoover, 17, a senior at Washington County Technical High School, died March 18 in a car accident near Clear Spring.

All four students were promising athletes at their schools.

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