Meridian family mourns daughter who loved to run

Drowning victim Evonne Tran took up the sport to be like her brother.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comAugust 1, 2013 

  • Dave Moser, Centennial's principal, was working at a Meridian junior high when a July 2008 car crash killed Steven Thompson. He recalled that Thompson's death and the injuries to coach Glenn Mabey and two other runners took a toll on the school and the cross-country team.

    "It's very, very tragic," said Moser. "It's a very sad situation when anyone passes, but especially when the person who passes is a vibrant, young 15-year-old."

    Mabey said Evonne Tran's death has hit the team hard. "She was a wonderful, joyous girl," Mabey said.

    In 2008, Mabey was driving the runners to scout locations for the cross-country camp to be held later that week.

    They were headed north on Idaho 55 as Ryan K. Howard of Donnelly was driving south in a pickup towing a trailer. Howard came around a curve too fast, the trailer jackknifed and the pickup crossed into the oncoming lane, striking the SUV driven by Mabey.

    Howard was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter, but later pleaded guilty to reckless driving. He was sentenced to six months in jail and served 60 days.

Evonne Tran told her dad she wanted to be a runner so she could earn a college scholarship.

She wanted to go to college in Idaho, or maybe at the University of Oregon, which has a storied track program.

Tran's older brother, David, ran for Mountain View High School, graduating in 2009. His little sister worshipped her brother, said Tat Tran, the children's father.

Evonne, 15, and David, 24, liked to run the three miles from their home near East Fairview Avenue northeast to Centennial High, where Evonne would have been a sophomore this fall.

"They ran together every afternoon," Tat said. "She looked up to her brother and he supported her."

Evonne Tran drowned last week at Lake Cascade in Donnelly while attending a four-day Centennial High cross-country camp.

Her death marked the second time in five summers that Centennial lost a cross-country athlete.

In July 2008, Steven Thompson, 17, was killed in a crash on Idaho 55 as cross-country team members headed to camp in Stanley. Assistant coach Glenn Mabey was seriously injured and two other Centennial runners, Austin Stallings and Michael Dobkins, also were hurt when an oncoming driver lost control on a curve and crashed into their SUV.

This year the Centennial team didn't originally plan to be in Donnelly, 95 miles north of Meridian. The annual four-day camp is normally held in Stanley. The location changed when the 210 Road Fire near Stanley forced Redfish Lodge and several campgrounds to close last week.

Last Thursday, Evonne was swimming in Lake Cascade when she began to struggle. Details remain sketchy, but Centennial officials say a team member swimming with her came to her aid, and other teammates and bystanders helped her to shore. A team chaperone who is a nurse performed CPR. She was treated at McCall Hospital and later airlifted to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, where she died early Friday morning.

Her funeral was held the next day. Interment followed at Cloverdale Memorial Park.

"We're very sad," Tat Tran said. "She was a very nice girl."

EDUCATION WAS IMPORTANT

Tat Tran grew up in Hue, South Vietnam. He brought his family to Boise in 1982 as a part of a large influx of Vietnamese who left their homeland after the Vietnam War. They landed in Idaho after being sponsored by a church group.

Evonne and her brother were born in the United States. Education was important to both of them, and Evonne saw a running scholarship as a way for her to afford college, her father said. And she didn't care that she was smaller and lacked the long legs of other runners.

"She just liked to run," Tat Tran said. "But she was also a good student."

Evonne had a playful side, evident on her Facebook page.

In a photo posted two days before she died, Evonne and a friend are pictured wearing identical pink shirts that read "Tough guys wear pink." The two friends look as though they are singing, their mouths open wide.

'BEAUTIFUL ANGEL'

Tat Tran drove his daughter to school every day and picked her up after cross-country practice in the fall and track practice in the spring.

Even in his grief, he was able to laugh about the memory of Evonne running one hot day with her brother and stopping at a gas station to ask for a drink of water. The siblings hadn't brought any money and the station refused them any water.

"Oh, she was mad after that," Tat Tran said. "I told her to always bring money with her after that and she did. She was always able to get water."

Several of Evonne's friends posted condolences on her Facebook page.

"Rest in paradise. Heaven has gained another beautiful angel," wrote Kylee DuRette of Boise.

"We all miss and love u," Tho Phung wrote.

Tat Tran said Evonne's brother has applied to a pre-pharmacy program at Idaho State University in Pocatello and hopes to become a pharmacist.

"Evonne really supported her brother in doing that," he said. "We hope he's able to fulfill his dream, since nothing will bring back Evonne."

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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