PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Students, faculty and staff at Ponte Vedra High School are mourning the loss of a beloved student as the school year comes to a close.
Zander Laurin, 16, died Wednesday after being struck by a pickup truck on State Road A1A while out jogging before school. His mother told News4Jax he was running to prepare for an entry test for the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps.
Friends close to the sophomore are remembering him as a fun, loving soul with the biggest, brightest smile. His wrestling coach, Josean Gonzalez, said the team and the school will keep Laurin's spirit alive.
"Everybody (is) sad," Gonzalez told News4Jax on Thursday. "I mean, there’s not a single person that is not sad or thinking about Zander today, but we try to stay positive and try to remember the good times with him. I think that’s what’s going to live on in our minds is all the good times."
With tears in his eyes, Gonzalez placed Laurin's shoes in the center of a mat. In the wrestling world, it's a symbol for retirement.
"There are so many great qualities about him -- very positive, hardworking, relentless," Gonzalez said.
The coach said what stood out about Laurin the most was his positive attitude.
"He would always pick everybody up. That was ... his best quality. I mean, he, no matter, what the outcome of the match was, you know, (win) or lose he was right there with his teammates," Gonzalez said tearfully. "We’re really going to miss him."
The student-athlete was loved far and wide, and had a bright future ahead. His mother said her son was selfless, spending countless hours volunteering and preparing to one day serve in the military.
Since the tragic accident, flowers have been laid along the side of A1A where Laurin was hit.
His principal is confident Laurin’s bright and colorful spirit will live on.
'I know he is going to truly be missed," said Ponte Vedra High Principal Fred Oberkehr. "We’re never going to forget him ever -- ever."
A close friend of Laurin's will be hosting a candlelight vigil in his memory at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mickler's Landing Beach Park.