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God Bless Grace Lovegrove, age 18

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SharonBates Find out more about SharonBates
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  • God Bless Grace Lovegrove, age 18

    Friends recall cheerful Lovegrove


    The CNU runner and Roanoke native dies two days after collapsing during a training run.


    By Aaron McFarling and Hattie Brown
    981-3349
    The Roanoke Times

    Through the phone line you could hear it late Wednesday night: Talking. Laughing.

    Coping.

    They had gathered as a team at one of the runner's houses at Christopher Newport University, the place they always ate their big spaghetti dinners the night before the big meet. This time, they came to remember Grace Lovegrove.

    It had all happened so fast. Monday she was running, laughing, pondering whether she should drop her early morning chemistry class. Tuesday she was in the hospital in critical condition. Wednesday she was gone, the victim of cardiac arrest.

    For the CNU cross country team, it had been three days of chaos, worry and tears. By Wednesday night, after they'd all said final goodbyes and left the hospital, there was nothing left to do but eat and swap stories about Lovegrove, their teammate from Roanoke who'd packed so much life into those 18 years.

    They laughed about the time they stopped at Captain Billy's on the way home from a meet, and the 106-pound Lovegrove crushed two pounds of snow crab legs and a pound of shrimp, easily outeating all of the guys. Or all the afternoons she and sophomore Ashley Ezell would pass the time on their runs by singing "The Circle of Life." Or how she'd always get a thrill when the convenience stores in the South carried Cheerwine soda.

    "She brought two 24-packs of that stuff up to school this semester," junior Elizabeth Browning said with a chuckle. "It kind of reminds me of her. Always cheerful. And kind of like wine, she'll loosen you up. Always happy. Always positive."

    The former Patrick Henry High School runner was as happy and positive as ever Monday afternoon, as she and teammate Megan Gehlsen began a 5-mile run in a neighborhood near campus.

    "We were just laughing and carrying on," Gehlsen recalled. "The next thing I know, she's diving for bags of leaves in a driveway, breaking her fall on the way down. It just happened so fast."

    Gehlsen flagged down a passing car, and the driver called 911. Meanwhile, other CNU runners who were doing an 8-mile workout began to trickle onto the scene.

    Lovegrove was taken to Riverside Regional Medical Center, where she remained in critical condition until her death.

    As of Tuesday evening, doctors had performed several tests but were unable to determine why Lovegrove went into cardiac arrest.

    Lovegrove's former Patrick Henry High track teammates were in shock after hearing the news of her death, said Chad Cox, Patrick Henry's track coach. Only a few weeks ago, she had come back to the school to run with the indoor track team and appeared to be in "really good shape," he said.

    Mackenzie Payne, a senior at Patrick Henry, ran on the indoor and outdoor track teams for three years with Lovegrove. She said Lovegrove was a team leader and role model who never complained. During bus rides, Lovegrove was known for joking around and telling funny stories.

    Church members and friends met Wednesday afternoon at Rosalind Hills Baptist Church, where Lovegrove was a member, for an impromptu prayer service for the family.

    While in high school, Lovegrove often came to youth group meetings straight from track practice, said Peggy Walker, a church member who attended the prayer service. Lovegrove would constantly talk about when her races were and how her team had performed at the last race, said Walker, also a former neighbor of the Lovegrove family.

    "On Monday, Grace was doing what she loved to do, which was run," Walker said.

    Lovegrove is survived by her parents, Richard and Clarissa Lovegrove of Roanoke, and her 11-year-old brother, Spencer. No funeral arrangements have been made.

    In Newport News, it was sophomore Tim Scott who took Lovegrove her stuffed sting-ray named "Honda," one of the marine science major's prized possessions, on Monday night at the hospital. He thought about how good she was at making soft-serve ice cream cones at Golden Corral, how she always seemed like one of the guys.

    "Here's this girl that wants to go get half-pound burgers with us at Hardee's," Scott said. "She went with us one night and finished the whole thing before I'd even basically started on mine. Hers was just gone.

    "Her appetite for food was just as great as her appetite for life, you know?"

    Wednesday afternoon, alone or in pairs, the teammates came to the hospital and said their goodbyes. Ezell was the last athlete to talk to Lovegrove.

    "I remember I took her hand and I looked at her and I told her, truthfully, that I was jealous because she met Jesus," Ezell said. "And I told her that I knew she was going to have an awesome time with Him and party with Him.

    "Then I gave her a kiss on the forehead and told her she'd always be my Gracie."


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