WALDRON – The stories flowed, as Jacob James did when his legs and breathing were rhythmic. If speaking and running seem like they don’t go together, well, you didn’t know Jacob.
He talked to other runners before a race. He talked to them afterward. He talked to them during a race.
He was that way not only on a track or cross-country course, either. He was more life force than runner. He was a Christian leader, No. 1 in the senior class, Eagle Scout, school mascot.
“Just larger than life,” said Mike Redelman, track coach at Waldron High School. “I know a lot of people say that, but… he was. He just was.”
At Mohawks basketball games, James wore a native American costume. He was one-eighth Osage himself. He would talk to coaches, pastors, students, friends… anyone.
“Even if you weren’t his friend,” teammate Ethan Trueblood said, “you were whenever you met him.”
James was killed at about midnight Sunday (Oct. 20) in a single-vehicle accident in the 3200 block of East 500 South. The Nissan Altima, traveling eastbound, left the road, struck a tree and caught fire. James was 17.
There is no metric to measure Jacob James’ impact on this Shelby County community, but consider this: Population in the Waldron zip code is about 1,400, and the high school enrollment is 148. There were 800 mourners Friday, some standing and many wearing blue ribbons for Waldron’s colors. They nearly filled the gym’s home bleachers at a celebration of life.
There were runners there not only from Waldron, but Shelbyville, Franklin, Whiteland, Morristown, South Decatur. Some were going to wear James’ clothes at the Shelbyville cross-country semistate Saturday, as his mother, Shelley Adams, had wished.
“I know he’s going to be right with us every step of the way,” Waldron runner Madeline Douglas said. “I know he’s going to be able to push us further than we’ve ever been able to go.”
Students stood at his No. 97 space in the parking lot Monday morning. Some did not leave after classes began. Flowers remained there Friday, plus a chair with the words: “Be kind. Be true. Just be you.”
There was a Blue Day at schools all around the county on Tuesday.