ASUN Impact: USC Upstate Remains #SpartanStrong One Year Later

ASUN Impact:  USC Upstate Remains #SpartanStrong One Year Later

Spartanburg, S.C. – USC Upstate softball player, and current Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President, Ryan Rector pens the first-ever entry of ASUN Impact, a personal account, in remembrance of Sarah Vande Berg, James Campbell, Josh Lee and Mills Sproull, who passed away in a car accident one year ago today.

About ASUN Impact
- A blog series created to amplify the voice of student-athletes across our league, ASUN Impact highlights first-person articles, journals and entries by conference students. ASUN Impact will bring insight into the daily world of intercollegiate athletics including personal accounts, community service efforts, on-field success & academic achievements.

On Oct. 11th, 2015, five USC Upstate student-athletes were involved in a car accident that took the lives of four; Sarah Vande Berg, James Campbell, Joshua Lee & Mills Sproull. Current USC Upstate softball student-athlete, Ryan Rector, details the year since the accident for the Spartan community in the first article written for the "ASUN Impact" series on the one-year anniversary.

The feelings are all still so real. One year later. The phone call at 2 a.m., driving to the hospital at 3 a.m, and having to tell one of your best friend's mom that her son had passed away. Those feelings still sit on my heart today.

I was blessed to know each of these four athletes and call them my friends. Sarah served on SAAC with me and whenever there was a last minute service opportunity to come up, she was always there. James always knew what music people wanted to hear, even if it was 2000's throw backs. Josh, could make you laugh on one of your worst days or even jump in the fountain at the front of the school when no one else wanted to. Mills, loved everyone, no matter who you were or how well you knew him, he always made you feel like the center of attention.

But what college-aged person should lose four of their friends, teammate or classmate? What parent should lose their son/daughter at such a young age? What girl/boy should lose their boyfriend/girlfriend?

I was lost and didn't know what to do. How do I go forward? How am I supposed to play against Georgia today?

A lot of the times we attack ourselves with lies and tell ourselves that it is because we are being punished or maybe we did something wrong to deserve this. When in reality, that is not the case at all. We put the weight of the world on our shoulders and try to fix things when all we need is a shoulder to cry on.

Over the past year, I have experienced more hurt and pain than I have in my whole life. I never imagined losing four friends at once, one of them being my best friend at the age of twenty. How does one cope with that? How does one move on?

I had all of these thoughts and I wasn't lonely with those feelings. Until I experienced a community rise up and become one. On that Sunday, we were finishing up our fall season against UGA, a powerhouse in the SEC for softball. I had no strength and was dreading the game until I felt the presence of Jesus and the hands of my teammates reach out to me and each one of them whisper, "Hey we got your back today, this one is for you."

I was at a loss for words. The Upstate, ASUN and NCAA community rose up to show support for a school that was lost and in mourning. Flower arrangements, hand-written notes, letters, cards, and even schools held their own candle lights for us. I stood back in awe of the love coming from all parts of the country.

Even though we were rivals on the field, off the field we are all on the same team. Even though this helped, it still didn't put things back in their place. Tragedies happen every single day, yet we don't seem to think about them happening until they actually have.

"When are my friends coming back?" I wanted to wake up from this bad dream that had become reality to me.

A year later, I am still asking the same questions and crying the same tears. Has it gotten a little bit easier, yes but it still doesn't bring James, Josh, Sarah and Mills back.

How has it gotten easier?

I have learned to finish the race like Josh, smile like Sarah, dance like James and love like Mills. As a school and especially as a body of student-athletes this tragedy has brought us closer, we check on each other more, cherish our friendships a little bit more and we laugh & cry over the memories we created with our friends.

From this I have learned to truly put my faith into Someone much higher and greater than I will ever be. There is a reason behind why things happen and I truly believe a legacy has been left to this school. No matter where life takes my friends and I, I know that we will always be #SpartanStrong. God is still God and God is still good. To God be the glory. 

Ryan Rector

Teaching Fellow
Teacher Candidate 
Student Athlete Advisory Committee President 
USC Upstate Softball #10