Community remembers Juan Mendoza

Runners take off at the start of the Juan Mendoza Memorial Mile on June 1 at the Marysville Getchell High School track.  - Lauren Salcedo
Runners take off at the start of the Juan Mendoza Memorial Mile on June 1 at the Marysville Getchell High School track.
— image credit: Lauren Salcedo

MARYSVILLE — The memory of Juan Mendoza, a 16 year-old Marysville Getchell High School student and athlete who lost his life in an Oct. 24, 2011, car accident, is not being forgotten by his classmates or his community.

The Marysville Getchell High School track was host to the Juan Mendoza Memorial Mile on June 1 at 5 p.m. At least 100 people attended the event to either participate in the mile run, or cheer on runners as they finished each lap. The MGHS athletics booster club served refreshments and handed out the green Juan Mendoza Memorial Mile 2012 T-shirts depicting a lightning bolt and a soccer ball, after Mendoza’s signature sport. They also sold blue lanyards that read “Win it for Juan Mendoza 2012.”

“Win it for Juan became a theme for fall season,” said Jaci Legore Hodgins, a teacher and multi-sport coach at MGHS. “We wanted to do something to honor Juan because he was such an incredible individual.”

Mendoza was very involved in athletics and the memorial mile was organized as a way to both memorialize him and represent the first year of MGHS athletic departments.

Participants ran the “Getchell Mile” — an MGHS physical education department invention that equates to roughly 1.66 miles. The group huddled prior to beginning and Legore Hodgins spoke to them all.

“You are all here for the greatest reason,” she said. “You are going to make choices like this one all summer long and for the rest of our lives. We need to make good choices and take care of ourselves and each other. If you’re running this, know he’s running this with you.”

The crowd put their hands together and shouted “Juan” on three, before lining up to start the race.

Not all of those who attended the memorial mile decided to run, but many still attended as a way to memorialize Mendoza.

“I don’t even go this school,” said Alex Wright, who cheered on the sidelines and wore one of the green Juan Mendoza T-shirts. Wright said she has been close to Mendoza for years.

“He’s my best friend since preschool,” she said. “I think these things are cool. They support him and remember him. I just saw his name and new I had to come.”

Lars Kundu, a friend of Mendoza’s who has also involved in the Oct. 24 accident, attended the memorial mile as well.

“I was just a part of the dedication of the Marysville Getchell Memorial Garden,” said Kundu. “It’s a way to commemorate Juan Mendoza and Alyssa Grant by creating a living memorial.”

Kundu said that the memorial mile was just the sort of thing that Mendoza would enjoy.

“It makes me glad that people are showing up to support Juan,” he said. “He was a runner, we met in cross country. He’d be happy to see all these people running for him.”

Also in attendance was Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring and his family.

“Juan was a very close friend of my son Nathan and we are close with his family. Juan was really special to our family,” said Nehring. “But also as a mayor, anytime I can attend an event that raises money for a good cause I like to do that.”

Nehring said he was impressed with the turnout, despite the relatively short notice.

“I thought it was a great event for a good cause,” said Nehring. “It really shows how much people care about Juan.”


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