Memory Of Scott J. Beigel Not Forgotten For Florida XC Team

Exactly a year ago, in the minutes and hours and days after a tragic school shooting took place at Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day in Parkland, Florida, the cross country team needed a way to cope. 

So in the early morning hours on a muggy day in Florida a few days later, several members of the team met at Liberty Park, about a two-mile trip west of the high school, and ran. 

"We ran there last year after everything happened," said Kayla Sanseverino, who was among the student body that endured a tragic school shooting that took 17 lives on Feb. 14, 2018, among them cross country coach Scott Beigel, who shielded students from an armed gunman before his own life was taken. "It helped us get through it." 

Sanseverino was among members of the cross country team that later held an impromptu run for Beigel, the 35-year-old coach and Long Island native who had been a teacher at the school for just a few years and a coach for that same amount of time. The run raised approximately $3,000 last year. 

Interested In Donating: Visit The Scott J. Beigel Foundation

A community fund was started in his honor and titled 'The Scott J. Beigel Memorial Fund,' which seeks to help underprivileged children attend camp -- for over a decade, Beigel was a counselor at Camp Starlight in Pennsylvania. 

A year later, Sanseverino, a team captain on Stoneman Douglas' cross country team, is among members of the senior class holding on to that legacy through another organized activity: The Run 4 Beigel 5K run on March 10 at Pine Trails Park. 

Along with Sanseverino, captain Alyssa Fletcher and runners Gabby Rumasuglia and Josh Charo also are playing a huge hand in organizing the run for 2019. 

While it will be held about a month after the anniversary, the team's thoughts are constantly reminded of the tragedy that took place, and of the individuals who were killed, hurt or traumatized by the actions of a former student. 

Classes were cancelled for Thursday and Friday, in remembrance of the events that took place in 2018.  

"I think everyone is very anxious and nervous about it," Sanseverino said. "Especially in the days leading up to the event, maybe more so than the anniversary. But everyone has been very supportive, everyone has been available to talk. We're running that day, we'll have a vigil set up that night." 

Sanseverino will be hosting members of the team at her home before the vigil. 

She says she'll never forget the way Beigel advocated for her as an athlete. She had often been just a hair behind some of her teammates, the runner looking to make her way up the pack. 

"He was always cheering for the underdog," she said. "Every race he'd come up to me and say, 'You can stick with them, you will get to them.' This year, I was able to do that. And I remember how he encouraged me after those races." 

Some members of the team memorialized Beigel, who graduated from the University of Miami, this fall with small tokens of respect: A number on their shoe, a statement, or a word of encouragement. Sanseverino said she's getting a tattoo in the week to come. 

"Before every race we write 'Fearless,' on our wrists," she said. "Our team became so close through this and we've helped each other." 

The enduring legacy of the events of last year have made Sanseverino more present, she says. 

"It's definitely made me more grateful for everything I have," she said. "It's made me stronger and a better teammate, and made everyone closer together. I've always been independent, but now I realized it's OK to let people in, to let people around you." 

That's one reason why the senior is forging ahead and taking the lead with organizing the 5K. The race currently has 71 entrants, but Sanseverino believes a big push will take place in the final two weeks before the event. She says colleagues of Beigel, a native of Long Island, New York, will be traveling down for the race as well. 

Next fall, Sanseverino will enroll at the University of Georgia. While she won't be competing in cross country or track and field, she says she's hoping to join the university's run club. 

And in later years, she says she has hopes of contributing to Beigel's honorary event in Parkland. 

"I'll help as much as I can," she said. 

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WHAT: Run 4 Beigel 5K

WHEN: March 10, 2019, 8 a.m.

WHERE: Pine Trails Park, Parkland, Florida

COST: $35 for individuals 19 & older, $30 for individuals 18 & under, $25 for students/staff

INFO: Proceeds from the run will go to The Scott J. Beigel Memorial Fund, which helps send underprivileged children to camp. 

HELP SPREAD THE WORD: #RunWithCoachBeigel and #RunWithMSDXC

VISIT: Run 4 Beigel's Facebook And Instagram Page