Beyond Belief

Students, faculty mourn loss of coach, hold memorial to remember life, legacy through speeches, personal anecdotes

Together as a team: Cross country students and coach Allison Coburn cry during their final speech at Kelley’s memorial.

Syeda Gilani, Editor-in-Chief

At first senior Kyle Cruz thought it was just one of those rumors that people create for attention. Confused, he scrolled through his Twitter feed, reading every little detail.

“When I first heard about it from Twitter, I didn’t want to believe it,” Cruz said. “I was scared out of my mind and the only thing I knew to do was text my head coach, coach [Allison] Coburn.”

Usually, she responds in a matter of minutes, but that day, she didn’t respond.

“She was only doing her job and making sure it was okay by the district to confirm the news,” Cruz said. “When I first got that text from coach, I was speechless.”

After getting together with his co-worker and friend Randy Preston, on Friday night, tennis and cross country coach Sean Kelley was killed during a car accident while trying to cross Main Street at around 11 p.m. The driver fled the scene.

“The athletic department has lost a huge contributor to the program,” Coburn said. “He helped out not with just the coaching assignments that were assigned to him, but he would help anybody out. It’s definitely a huge loss to our department and the staff, too, and the students that he taught.”

When the rumors first circulated on social media, there was a debate on whether the news was true or not. Later, the district confirmed that Kelley had indeed passed away.

“I was in denial until coach Coburn texted us to confirm that the rumors were true,” sophomore Jazmin Rodriguez said. “I still find it hard to believe because I was messing with him and joking with him on Thursday, and to wake up knowing that one of my biggest supporters is gone just kills me. I bawled my eyes out because I never thought this would happen to us.”

Hours after the public announcement, administration stated that counseling would be available for students. On Monday, the school held a memorial service honoring Kelley and his life.

“I think that this should be treated as a celebration,” alumni Melanie Rodriguez said. “He invested in us and at that time we were a repair shop team because no one cared about us. What we should all try to do is carry his legacy by emulating the kind of person he was.”

At the memorial, several students, friends and co-workers shared small anecdotes of the person Kelley was and wrote his family small letters.

“Just this last Friday we spoke about soccer and my future plans for college,” senior Mireya Del Abra said. “My mom always taught me that god brings people into our life for a reason. I was fortunate enough to have him as a coach for two sports because he didn’t care whether we were winning or losing.”

While Kelley was invested in coaching and teaching, his best friend was his dog, Sammy, who he wanted to travel the world with. According to his students, he would often post pictures and stories about Sammy and all the places they wished to travel.

“Sammy, his dog was his constant companion and went everywhere with him,” Kelley’s neighbor, Brian Kelly said. “He loved teaching and coaching him. The single greatest thing I will miss about Sean is that we solved all the world’s problems in the man cave and that won’t be replaced.”

Along with coaching his students, Kelley was also very at-home with his cross country team, from jokes to heart-to-heart talks.

“My fondest memory of coach was when we were at a meet at Lago Vista,” senior Madison Payne said. “They were playing some weird old music and out of the corner of my eye I see coach Kelley do a cartwheel and he just starts dancing. It was such a happy moment and that’s how I want to remember him.”

As for work, according to coach Sheri Carter, Kelley was a close friend. He played pranks and cheered the mood on gloomy days at work.

“When I think of Sean the first thing that comes to mind is the sense of humor because he would be the first one to pull a prank every year,” Carter said. “We started to look for the rubber snake, hidden in the small spaces and I’d be so freaked out. I’m angry and hurt that he was taken so early before his time.”

While he was silly and made his co-workers and students laugh, Kelley also cared for them. Every practice he would bring fruit and sunscreen to help his students after a race. He also cooked for his fellow coaches and teachers so they could eat during their breaks.

“I had a tough year last year,” Coburn said. “I lost my father and my grandmother but Kelley took care of it so I had nothing to worry about, and I don’t think I ever told him how much I appreciated it.”

After the memorial the cross country team released balloons after saying a small goodbye message for him.

“Attending the service yesterday really opened my eyes to the dynamic that he brought to every single life he touched,” Cruz said. “I am appreciative that I had the honor of being under the instruction of coach Kelley. He demanded expectations that really helped us develop as a team and individuals.”