Westerville South High School basketball coaches are helping students deal with loss and move forward after a junior varsity player collapsed during practice, and later died, last week.
Christopher Randolph, 17, fell to his knees, looking tired, during the team's end-of-practice huddle Dec. 11.
He laid back and was clearly having trouble breathing. An athletic trainer tended to him while 911 was called.
Randolph was transported to Mount Carmel St. Ann's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead in the emergency room.
Junior varsity basketball coach Mike Wasylik said the tragedy has hit Randolph's teammates and coaches hard.
"Obviously, in all my years of coaching, we haven't had to deal with this type of tragedy," Wasylik said. "For some (students), I think this was the first time death has touched them closely.
"They don't understand why. They don't understand why this happens, so this has been somewhat of a surprise and something that has taken them back quite a bit."
The day after Randolph's death, the school called in crisis counselors to work with students in need of additional support.
During weekend games, the team sported bracelets with Randolph's name on them, Wasylik said, and worked to collect money to help his family with funeral costs.
Now, Wasylik said, the coaching staff is working to help the students move beyond the tragedy of Randolph's death.
"Really, after the first two days, I as the coach wanted to stop talking about it because I didn't want to keep this in front of them," Wasylik said. "The remembrance is there, and the remembrance is very strong, but they're also learning that they have to move forward and have to be strong and have to do what they can do to support the family."
Randolph was a junior at Westerville South, and he started working with basketball program last spring.
He was dedicated to the game and had a laid-back personality that put everyone at ease, Wasylik said.
"He was one of the harder workers we had in the off season. He loved the game of basketball and he loved being around the teammates," Wasylik said. "He was pretty much enjoyed by everybody because he was that easy-going. He showed respect for all of his teammates and got along with everybody."
Wasylik said Randolph's family still is awaiting the official cause of death, but they were told his death likely resulted from a rare and hard-to-detect heart defect.
The Chris Randolph Memorial Fund, the proceeds from which will be donated to Randolph's family to help with funeral expenses, was set up last week at the Delaware County Bank.
Checks made out to the Chris Randolph Memorial Fund can be dropped off at South, 303 S. Otterbein Ave., with Principal Steve Andersson or Athletic Director Buck Weaver.
They also can be mailed to Delaware County Bank at P.O. Box 1001, Lewis Center 43085, or dropped off at any Delaware County Bank branch.