Cross-country runner was ready to spread her wings

  • Article by: MARY LYNN SMITH and MYRON P. MEDCALF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 4, 2007 - 12:01 AM

Just starting to resume training runs, Caty Delwiche was struck and killed in Mankato by a motorist who lost control of his truck.

After being sidelined with an injury for the start of her first cross-country running season at Minnesota State University, Mankato, Catherine Delwiche, one of the top high school runners in Minnesota, finally got the doctor's OK to run again.

"She was thrilled," said her father, Jeff Delwiche.

She was doing everything right as she began a training run Tuesday, gliding easily down the sidewalk along Warren Street in Mankato, when a car crossed several lanes of traffic and jumped the curb.

Delwiche, 18, was killed, and her teammate, Laura Palmer, also 18, who was riding her bike alongside, suffered minor injuries.

"I have so many thoughts right now," her father said quietly over the phone Wednesday from the family home in Glencoe, Minn. And then there was silence. "Thoughts like maybe I wish I never started her running. ... She's given us so much joy. But I don't know if the joy outweighs this pain. It's indescribable."

Jeff Delwiche, a former Hopkins high school athlete, began running with his daughter when she was 10, maybe 11, he said. She ran nearly every day, rain, snow or shine. When she wasn't training with her high school team, she was running side by side with Jeff.

Caty Delwiche was on the high school varsity squad by the time she was in seventh grade. She finished 11th at the state cross-country meet her junior year and wanted to finish in the top 10 her senior year, her father said.

"But she had a horrible sprained ankle all season and it just wasn't getting any better," her father said. She finished 20th in the Class A state cross-country meet last fall and fourth at the Spring 2007 track meet. And she ended that run with a stress fracture, which kept her from running for a couple months, until this fall.

"We thought she was healthy when she went off to college," Jeff Delwiche said. But knots in her calf kept her from training with her college team -- until Tuesday.

"The car may have hit her head on," Delwiche said. "She likely saw what was happening."

No alcohol detected

According to early reports from the State Patrol, Dale Hoechst, 57, of Mankato, was driving south along Warren Street near the campus when he lost control of his vehicle and struck the two girls before hitting a phone junction box and a tree. Investigators said no alchohol was detected.

Both Hoechst and Palmer had been discharged from Immanuel St. Joseph's Hospital by Wednesday afternoon, according to hospital officials.

News of the accident spread quickly around campus, with more than 50 athletes crowding into the hospital along with Caty's friends and family. Text messages and cell phone calls spread the word to high school teams that had competed against her.

"She had a wind underneath her sails," said Brent Bohn, a former youth pastor who knew Delwiche for 4½ years. "She was full of hope. She had fire and she had zeal."

Letting go of pressures

She had been excited about leaving for college and talked about being a nurse. "She was ready to spread her wings," her father said. And she was ready to let go of some of the pressure she put on herself to be a top high school student and athlete.

On Sunday, she told her father that she had found her first boyfriend.

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