A longtime cross country coach in Fort Worth, Texas, died Tuesday morning during a team practice.
John Church, a longtime cross country coach and former basketball coach at Fort Worth’s Southwest High School, was 58.
As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, sophomore runner Serenada Sanchez and another teammate tried to revive Church with CPR, while another teammate called 911. Sanchez said she knew something was wrong at practice when Church wasn’t up and speaking to his team during a practice run.
“Coach was just sitting at this bench,” Sanchez told the Star-Telegram.
While Church suffered a cardiac event, his brother Jim Church was unsure whether it was a heart attack that killed the teacher and coach, per the Star-Telegram. The late coach worked in the Fort Worth school district his whole career after graduating from UT Arlington in 1991. He was also a 1975 graduate of Southwest.
“When we got to him, he couldn’t respond to us. His nose was purple,” Sanchez told the Star-Telegram. “We set him on his back on one of the mats we brought for our workouts. I started CPR, but it was really, really hard to focus, because this is somebody that you love and you know he’s not doing good.”
As the Star-Telegram reports, one of Sanchez’ teammates assisted with CPR while another called 911. Fort Worth Fire Department officials told Southwest Principal John Engel that Sanchez and her teammates acted heroically in their attempts to save their coach’s life.
“Their actions were heroic no matter what the outcome. They were obviously willing to do anything for their coach,” Engel told the Star-Telegram.
At least 60 people gathered back at Foster Park on Wednesday to say something about the “absolute educator” who “touched so many lives,” as Engel told the Star-Telegram.
From 2009 to 2016, Church was also Southwest’s boys basketball coach. He was an assistant on the 2008 team that went to the Class 4A state finals against Dallas South Oak Cliff.
Most of the members of this year’s boys and girls cross-country teams were present at the memorial Wednesday.