Reporting Holly Wagner
MONTICELLO, Minn. (WCCO) – Family, friends and teammates remembered the life of a college athlete killed in a tragic accident.
Phillip LaVallee was a cross country and track star at Monticello High School and was heading into his sophomore year at South Dakota State.
The 19-year-old was hit and killed last month while out on a training run, three miles from his parents’ home in Otsego.
Deputies say the driver crossed two lanes of traffic on a rural road and drove onto the shoulder and hit LaVallee.
Saturday, hundreds of people gathered at Bertram Regional Park in Monticello for a memorial run and walk in his honor.
Dave Wik, Monticello High School Cross Country Coach, had a close relationship with LaVallee.
“I think people want to celebrate, you know, what a great kid he was. And being active and outdoors and running…I’d say this is perfect,” Wik said.
Some of the runners and walkers wore LaVallee’s favorite color, orange. His relatives made special t-shirts that read “Run for Phil” on the front, and “He runs with angels in heaven so we’ll run on Earth for him” on the back.
Wik says his memory brings smiles, but also a great deal of sadness.
“Sorry for all the things he had to look forward to, and what he was going to be, and the success that was still coming down the road in his direction. Sad to miss that,” he said.
Friend and former high school teammate Hunter Kopff says he and Phillip pushed each other to pick up the pace, to work harder and to be better.
“It’s still hard to think that it happened actually,” Kopff said. “I miss him. He runs with me every day.”
Phillip’s family and friends plan to make this run an annual event, and a trail at the park will be named after him.
This week, the Wright County Sheriff’s office turned over its investigation of the accident to the county attorney.
They will decide if any charges will be filed against the driver, 67-year-old Linda Gullickson of Albertville.