Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Valley mourns Torin Tuckerís passing

Dartmouth College cross-country skier dies during race

Express Staff Writer

Torin Tucker

     The Wood River Valley community is mourning the death of 20-year-old Torin Tucker of Ketchum, who died Saturday during a cross-country ski race in Vermont.

     Many of the local racers in Saturday’s Boulder Mountain Ski Tour north of Ketchum knew Tucker, and his former teammates on the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Nordic team have been deeply saddened by the news.

     Tucker collapsed while competing in the 33rd annual Craftsbury (Vt.) Marathon 50-kilometer (31-mile) race as a junior-class member of the Dartmouth College Nordic team.

     Rick Kapala, SVSEF Nordic program director and head coach, said Monday, “From what I understand from people who were there, Torin was just rocking the race, skiing with the lead group and hooting it out. He was about at 42k and apparently was having the time of his life.”

     According to Rick Bender, director of communications for varsity sports at the Dartmouth, attempts to revive Tucker at the scene were unsuccessful. The cause of his untimely death is still being investigated.

     The 2010 Community School graduate is the son of Scott Tucker of Boulder, Co. and southern California resident Kathryn Tucker. His survivors include a younger sister, Montana, currently studying in New Zealand, and aunt Susan Tucker who is married to his uncle Steve Meyers.

     Scott Tucker, a former president of Montrail running shoes, has worked as Running Division director of Scott USA and also as Strategy Coordinator of the Ketchum Community Development Corp. He is an Ironman triathlete.

     A statement released Saturday on the Dartmouth College (Hanover, N.H.) Web site for athletics read:

     “Torin Tucker, a member of the Dartmouth Class of 2015, passed away today while competing for the Big Green in a cross country skiing event in Craftsbury, Vt. After the college informed Tucker’s family and expressed its deep sympathy and support, President Philip Hanlon shared the tragic news with the college community in a campus-wide email.

     The college’s Web site statement continued to say, “The thoughts of Dartmouth athletics are with Torin’s family, friends, and the entire Dartmouth community on this sad day,” said Dartmouth Director of Athletics and Recreation Harry Sheehy.

     “We urge students, faculty, and staff who would like to speak to a counselor or chaplain, on their own behalf or out of concern for someone else to contact Safety and Security at any hour,” President Hanlon said. “Please do not hesitate to seek help during this time of grief.”

     Cross-country skiers from Dartmouth College, overseen by 23rd-year head coach Ruff Patterson, a Sun Valley native, were competing at two separate locations Saturday.

     Many Big Green skiers were taking part in University of Vermont Carnival races, an Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) competition at Stowe, Vt. Others including Tucker were taking part in the Craftsbury Marathon in Vermont, an event offering 25k and 50k courses.

     Tucker was familiar with the Craftsbury course, having competed there for the SVSEF in the spring of 2012 during U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Super Tour finals. Tucker placed 14th in that Junior Men’s 20-kilometer race.

     The college’s Web site statement continued to say, “The Dartmouth ski team has returned to campus and will not compete in the remainder of the Vermont Carnival.”


Words of solace from Ruff Patterson

     Coach Ruff Patterson said Tuesday from New Hampshire, “Torin was a mountain boy from a mountain town. He absolutely loved being a skier and a member of a ski team. His passion for both began in his mountain home in Sun Valley and continued while at Dartmouth.

     “I can think of very few who tried harder or wanted to be successful more than Torin. He had an immense will. I know most skiers know what I’m talking about when remembering to what lengths Torin would go in pushing workouts and races. Torin was just knocking at the door these last few weeks in his quest for a carnival start—a feat not all that realistic even a year ago.

     “Torin was woven into this very large skiing family. He was woven into his fraternity. He was woven into a number of academic families, some transitory, some more lasting. As with all families, the closer the ties the more complicated the relationships.  With Torin it was even more so.  Looking back, most are realizing the role Torin played in each of these groups.

     “My heart extends to Torin’s family. I hope you find some solace knowing the impact Torin had on so many people here.

     “Somewhere along the line someone asked, “Who was Torin’s best friend?” We all looked at each other blankly because the list would immediately grow larger than just one. It would also grow realizing friendship was complicated by a balance of conflict and love. At that point the list would grow geometrically.

     “I hope you can also find solace in knowing that this overactive mind did find solace up to the very end while pursuing the mountain roots that meant so much to him.

     “He was in full blossom at his passing.”


Community School remembers Tucker

     Ben Pettit, Community School Assistant Head of
School, said at a school assembly Monday morning, “Torin was an amazing kid. He had a great smile, an unstoppable spirit and a kind heart, which made him a true Cutthroat.”

     Pettit added that Tucker came to the Sun Valley independent school as a sophomore and graduated in June 2010. He said, “Torin came to the Community School from the Catlin Gable school in Portland (Ore.). Torin was an outstanding student athlete at Community School, and he was deeply involved as a leader in our outdoor program.

     “Torin will be remembered as a person who was able to excel in all areas of his life, from academics to athletics and outdoor adventures. He truly embodied Community School spirit in all endeavors.”

     Kapala added, “Torin had a lot of different interests. He was really into climbing. He moved easily between the different groups of people involved in his interests, and he would talk to anybody.”

     The ski coach added, “Even though his family moved away after he graduated from the Community School, Torin always associated himself with Sun Valley. He was always upbeat. He was not going to let anything keep him from enjoying life—just a multi-dimensional kid.”

     Although he was a vegetarian, the young man was renowned for baking cakes and pies. “He would show up all the time with cake in hand,” said Kapala.

     “Torin’s death is just really, really, really too bad. It hit everyone hard involved in our program,” said Kapala. “He was never necessarily our strongest racer, but he was really integral to the fabric of our team.

     “He brought the best possible attitude to each day’s workout and seemed truly unaffected by typical teenage angst. He was truly secure in who he was, and never afraid to ask a question. He just brought a great spirit to the team.”

     Pettit of the Community School added at today’s assembly, “He achieved at the highest level in the classroom and played varsity tennis for the Cutthroats. Torin emerged as a key outdoor leader on the Senior Quest in Utah, and he led Community School rock climbing trips for the middle school.

     “Torin was not only an accomplished outdoorsman and student, but an accomplished Nordic skier. He skied two years for the SVSEF and qualified to ski at Junior Nationals each year. His Senior Project involved traveling to Sweden to investigate why Scandinavian skiers were so successful and to incorporate this into his own skiing. His project was a great success.”

     The young man was an enthusiastic cross-country runner.

     As a Community School senior, Tucker received a medal from the Idaho High School Activities Association for placing ninth of 106 runners in the State 2A cross country finals near Coeur d’Alene.

     In Oct. 2009, Torin and his father Scott were among the lead runners in a fun run at Hulen Meadows north of Ketchum to honor the memory of 19-year-old SVSEF Nordic racer Willie Neal, who died earlier that year in a roller ski accident in Maine.

     In his senior year at the Community School, Tucker was one of only two Blaine County high school seniors chosen as finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program, an honor bestowed on top graduating students in the U.S.

     Torin was one of the first students to sign up when a foreign language class in Arabic was started at the Sun Valley independent school in 2008.

     Pettit said, “Torin had a great smile and spirit. He was focused and motivated. He was also very positive and just nice to be around. Torin will always be remembered for pursuing his passions with uncompromising dedication and a love of life. He will be deeply missed by his peers, teachers and coaches at Community School.”

     Social media has provided an important connection between Tucker’s SVSEF friends and teammates in the 48 hours since his death Saturday.

     Kapala said, “We always talk about how the racing results really don’t matter in the long run, and how it’s really about the friendships and experiences you have. That’s one of the things that makes Torin’s death so tough for us, especially coming after Willie Neal’s death five years ago.

     “The huge number of people who have stepped forward to offer heartfelt testimonials is a tribute to Torin’s wonderful nature.”

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