A void won’t be easily filled on the Springfield High School boys track and field team this spring. A bullet to the chest of junior Jeff Wellington last weekend saw to that.
“Everybody’s hurting and trying to get back on their feet and get back to normal but it hurts,” said sophomore football and track teammate Xavier Garland during Friday’s 64th Dayton/Edwin C. Moses Relays at Welcome Stadium.
“It’s somebody who you just saw the other day and is gone. Just talking to him and hanging out with him and now he’s gone. It’s just unreal.”
Wellington died early last Sunday while trying to break up a confrontation. The slaying suspect, 17-year-old Tyrin Lemond Hawkings of Springfield, remains at large.
Springfield’s sudden loss has rocked teammates, the school and its community. No wonder the Wildcats have dedicated this season to Wellington.
A sprinter, he was one of the many new members who new head football coach Maurice Douglass had encouraged to run track. Springfield has a long way to go to compete with the likes of Wayne, Centerville, Trotwood-Madison and Northmont in the Greater Western Ohio Conference, but the future looks good.
So did the promise of Wellington, who was ticketed as a starting running back this fall.
“Our whole school was heartbroken,” freshman sprinter Tyron Holly said. “It doesn’t even feel the same no more. Everything that we do is for him. I’ve got his name printed on my shoes. That man, he had so much potential. He had everything going for him.”
The meet was the first time that Springfield had competed since Wellington’s death. Coaches Elliot Shuman (boys) and Anthony Moss (girls) were more concerned about the Wildcats emotionally recovering than training this week.
Schuman first bonded with Wellington as a science tutor. He said besides understanding science, they often talked about the “big picture,” about what awaited Wellington.
On Thursday, Springfield track members prepared for the meet with a cathartic kickball game and cookout.
“It was a good time and I saw some guys smile for the first time in a while,” Shuman said. “That was nice.”
Garland said he and Wellington would have been in the backfield together this fall.
“Everything, football, any sport that I do is for him,” Garland said. “I know he wouldn’t want me to go any other way than to go as hard as I could. It’s some big shoes to fill. Everything from now on is going to be dedicated to Jeff.”