This week the University of Mount Olive will remember the lives lost and affected by the tragedy of March 13, 2020. As a result of the collision, which occurred at the intersection of Highway 55 and Indian Spring Road, freshman exercise science major Madison Mergl of Sayville, NY; sophomore agribusiness major Ann Wray of Oakland, NJ; Jett Swetland, a senior business management major from Sparta, OH; and Chaney Partrich, a freshman exercise science major from Chapin, SC all perished. The lives of the surviving victims: Alex Eubanks of Bowie, MD; Amber McCarthy of Havelock, NC; and Tiffany Lee of Gambrills, MD will forever be altered.
“Madison, Ann, Jett, and Chaney were a part of our family,” said Dr. Dan Sullivan Senior Vice President for Student Affairs & Athletics and Chief Student Affairs Officer. “They were friends, teammates, and forever Trojans. Even a year later, many of us are still grappling with our feelings. It is still hard to realize they are gone. However, by honoring their memory, we ensure that their lives still have purpose and meaning. As we continually deal with our collective feelings of hurt and loss, we aspire to heal as only time can provide.”
To mark the twelve-month anniversary of that fatal event, the University has planned several events throughout the week to remember the baseball and women’s lacrosse student-athletes. Starting on Wednesday, March 10, luminaries will be lit around Rodgers Chapel and flowers placed inside the Chapel, with space made for private prayer and meditation. On Saturday, March 13, the Chapel Carillon will be set to play several musical selections in dedication and remembrance of those affected by the tragedy.
The parents and family members of Madison Mergl, Ann Wray, and Chaney Partrich have been invited to the women’s lacrosse game scheduled for Saturday at 12 noon against North Greenville University. Jett Swetland’s parents have been invited to the baseball game scheduled for 12 noon against Barton College. There will be a moment of silence before the national anthem of each game, and there will be a presentation of jerseys made to the four families. In an expression of solidarity and remembrance, each member of the Trojan’s women’s team will wear sweatbands with the numbers 18, 27, and 28, marking the jersey numbers of their fallen teammates. Likewise the Trojan baseball team will wear hats with a memorial patch in memory of Jett. A bronze plaque will be placed at the entrance of the Ray McDonald, St. Sports Complex as a constant reminder of the lives of Madison, Ann, Chaney, and Jett.
“The tragedy of March 13, 2020 is one that the University of Mount Olive community will never forget,” said UMO President Dr. H. Edward Croom. “These students’ families, friends, teammates, and fellow students, faculty, and staff have suffered profound sorrow and pain. A phrase we have come to associate with that tragic event is ‘Trojan Tough’.” We heard it a great deal around our campus as we prayed for Madison, Ann, Jett, Chaney, Alex, Amber, and Tiffany. We continue to use the phrase to symbolize the combination of qualities like diligence, persistence, and the resilience to face life’s adversities with fortitude. As we remember March 13, let us never forget these students or the spirit of being ‘Trojan Tough’.”