Member of Lancaster girls track team dies at 16
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
By RANDY JENNINGS / The Dallas Morning News
LANCASTER – Members of the Lancaster girls track and field team spent Tuesday trying to cope with the death of a sophomore teammate.
16, died late Monday afternoon, a little more than a
month after suffering seizures that were caused by a form of encephalitis.
Sharla Butler was a sophomore at Lancaster.
"I don't think it really has hit us that Sharla won't be back running with us," said Jerneshia Mergerson, a junior sprinter. "This whole thing feels like it never really happened. Everybody just wants to go home."
Butler, a sophomore, was the youngest of Sonia and Raymond Butler's four children.
Two older sisters, Sha'Ray and Shira, also ran for Lancaster and attend Kansas and Jacksonville State (Ala.), respectively, on track scholarships.
Lancaster coach Beverly Humphrey said Sharla could have been the best in the Butler family and one of the best to compete for Lancaster.
As a 4-foot, 8-inch freshman, Butler advanced to the Class 4A Region II meet in the 400 meters.
"I had big plans for her," said Humphrey, who has coached Lancaster to eight straight state championships. "Her goal was to someday compete in the Olympic Trials, and I believe she could have done it."
Members of the Lancaster team prayed together after Tuesday's practice.
When Butler began feeling sick in late December, she thought she had the flu. She was taken to a doctor after seizures on Christmas Eve.
Family members thought she was improving after treatment, but Sha'Ray Butler said her sister had an eight-minute seizure on New Year's Eve. She was rushed to a hospital, but her condition deteriorated over the next few days. She eventually lost consciousness.
Humphrey, a constant visitor during Butler's hospital stay, has ordered a banner for the locker room with a picture of Sharla and an inspirational message: If it takes work, we'll get it done. If it takes heart, we'll all be as one.
Teammates insist Butler will be on their minds.
"Everything we do this season is going to Sharla's memory," said senior Leah Norman, a senior hurdler. "We want to make her proud."
A wake is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday at Ideal Pentecostal Church in Dallas.
Lancaster's boys and girls track teams plan to be together for Butler's funeral at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Lancaster Junior High auditorium.
"If I could," said Humphrey, with tears welling in her eyes, "I'd give back every championship that we've won if we could have Sharla back for one day."