Schaller teens remembered for efforts on, off the field

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sam Collier was a determined golfer who regularly wore a Red Sox shirt to school to spite his freshman geography teacher, Randy Galvin, a Yankees fan.

Cody Claussen went out for track this season to stay in shape for football and "impress the chicks," according to his teammates. He was far from fleet-footed but possessed a tireless work ethic.

Anthony "Tony" Clark was a day shy of his 17th birthday and amped for track season after dusting runners he'd never beaten before in cross country last fall.

The three Schaller teens-who died Wednesday morning in a car accident while on their way to lifting weights-left lasting impressions in the tightknit community that is Schaller-Crestland High School. Impressions that transcend anything they could have ever done suiting up for the black, gold and white.

Faculty and students were in different stages of the grieving process Friday, near the end of the second day of school since the tragedy.

Friday was about "just trying to get back to normal," school secretary Jane Schomaker said. "Yesterday was trying. Today's a lot better."

"Yesterday morning, it hit hard," senior track runner Cody Galvin agreed.

Freshman Daren Miller, another member of the Wildcat track squad, said going to school instead of staying home and grieving "takes your mind off things."

"Staying home, you just think about it," junior teammate Justin Ronk said. "But it hasn't set in yet."

Nor had it for Schaller-Crestland golf coach and math teacher Brandon Jensen.

"It's just really hard to do anything right now-to think about grades, to think about midterm," Jensen said. "There comes a point when you have to. But it makes a golf or track meet seem pretty unimportant to me."

"We tried to practice last night," Randy Galvin said, then stopped. There was no need for him to continue.

Galvin, the school's athletic director and boys track coach in addition to his teaching duties, said the toughest part was taking the track jerseys of Cody and Tony-signed by the team members-home to their parents.

"I told the kids we're either going to be stronger or we're going to let it affect us," said Galvin. "Time will tell."

Tony, the son of Scott and Linda Clark of Schaller, was a wrestler and mid-distance runner who was "starting to come into his own," said Galvin. "He was starting to medal (in cross country). His confidence was tremendous.

"He was excited about going to state."

Said Jensen, "Tony really came a long way as far as maturity. I think his success in cross country helped that out."

Tony and Cody, both juniors, sat next to each other in the front row of about every class they were in and were both bright students, Jensen said.

"Cody and I just had a talk about his math grade; he had a C at the time and was really upset about it," said Jensen. "He talked to me about things he could do to improve in the classroom.

"All three kids just didn't accept failure."

Cody, 17, a step-brother to Sam and the son of Stuart Claussen of Schaller and Tina Claussen of Early, wasn't the most athletic kid, said Ronk. "But no one outworked him."

"Cody had determination," said S-C junior track member Ben Currie.

"(Cody) based his whole life on football," Ronk added. "It might not set in until football next year. And we won't see the big red hair and the red Converses any more."

The Wildcats will miss Cody's personality and work ethic.

"Cody didn't care what he ran; he just wanted to help us out," said Randy Galvin. "So the first meet, he ran the mile. He's no miler. I told the kids the other day, 'You could walk faster than that.' On Tuesday we had an optional practice because our meet in Gowrie was canceled. There were five kids here out of 21. I stepped outside and came back in and there's Cody.

"He came late and he's runing inside, and I mean he's not going to state, he probably won't even place at a meet, but he's one of the six that came in and ran. That's just the type of kid he was."

Sam, 15, the son of Shannon Collier of Arizona and Angie Collier-Claussen of Schaller, was the lone student to pick up on Jensen's self-described "dry math sense of humor."

"He was always the kid in the back that was the only one in the room to laugh at my jokes. I'd have to rely on Sam to sort of explain it to his classmates," Jensen said.

"(Sam) was quiet but he would smile ... " Randy Galvin recalled. "We didn't really have him here that long to get to know him real well."

Sam didn't say much but would "get that big ol' smile on his face and just laugh," said Jensen.

Sam was paired up with a couple of S-C girls in golf practice Monday when Jensen suddenly noticed him walking down the fairway by himself.

"He gets up there, hits the ball and goes. Gets up there, hits the ball and goes," said Jensen. "I asked him what the deal was and he says, 'They're way too slow.'

He wanted to get out there and get some holes played and try to get a little better."

"Sam looked up to (Cody). He was real smart," said Miller. "He knew everything about sports."

Cody Galvin will be dedicating his performances from here on out to his three former schoolmates.

"I think it will give me more of a drive and push me to work harder and get back to state," he said.

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