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Convention 2010
June 23-26
Marriott City Center,
Salt Lake City

For information:
Garry D. Howard:
E-mail | 414-224-2306

Jack Berninger:
E-mail | 804-741-1565

Workshop materials

Judging 2010
March 6-10
Radisson WorldGate,
Kissimmee, Fla.

For information:
Phil Kaplan:
E-mail | 865-342-6285

Jack Berninger:
E-mail | 804-741-1565

Mandatory dates:
Sunday: April 5
Weekday: Tue., Feb. 24

40,000-100,000 circulation
Feature story
First place (tie)

A Laugh That Will Live On

Shelley Glover: 1986-2004

Wisconsin State Journal

Finally, it was just the two of them. Father and daughter, together.

The curtain was drawn, the door closed. No more doctors administering tests, no more nurses drawing blood. And there, in the dark, Rich Glover held his daughter as best he could, the memories washing over him.

There Shelley was, 3 years old, on skis for the first time at Cascade Mountain, wearing her little pink snowsuit.

There she was, probably 10 or 11, swimming the breaststroke at the Shorewood Hills pool, working toward the all-city meet.

There she was, a freshman at Madison West, starting on the two-time defending state champs' soccer team.

There she was, a few months and many family discussions later, making the big move to Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont, to pursue her ski racing dream.

There she was, just this past February, swooshing down Blue Mountain in Georgian Peaks, Ontario, in the North American Cup Finals, finishing fifth in the slalom, her specialty.

There she was, home in Madison a few days before those races, going to a mid-winter dance at West, breathtaking in her black strapless dress.

And now, here she was, next to him, gone. The doctors had pronounced her brain dead at 10:50 a.m., and now it was close to midnight. He'd been sitting there for what felt like forever – his wife, Carmella, and older daughter, Bonnie, had left the hospital hours ago – just waiting.

Waiting for the surgeons to come get her to harvest – oh, what an awful word – her organs. Waiting for all the recipients to be found.

Waiting to say goodbye.

And that's when it hit him. All those memories of Shelley, all those unforgettable moments – that was all he had now.

"You've got this basically lifeless body in front of you that used to just amaze you with what she could do. And you know you're never going to have that back," he says after a deep sigh. "There were a lot of memories going through my mind, a lot of things coming back to me.

"You do a lot of second-guessing, too. A lot of what-if. What if things had been different? What if she hadn't been up there that day? There was a lot of self-doubt on my part."

He stops, removes his wire-rimmed glasses to wipe away the tears streaming down his cheek, and searches for the words. It's been 11 days since Shelley's seemingly minor fall at Mount Bachelor Resort near Bend, Ore. It's been a week since that night he sat in the intensive care unit of St. Charles Medical Center, alone with her and his memories.

"And I still have fear," he says, "about that time alone."

• • •

Shelley Glover didn't enter the world wearing bindings and goggles, but skiing was encoded in her DNA. Rich and Carmella had met on the slopes in 1973, at a ski resort in Wilmot. They married a year later, then moved to Colorado to be what Carmella calls "hard-core ski bums." But they moved back to Madison when Bonnie and Shelley came along.

"And as soon as we could, we put them on skis," Carmella says.

The kids took to the snow immediately. When Shelley was 4, she was still working her way up the towrope, not yet ready for the chair lift. Carmella told her that once she could ride the lift all by herself, the family would go to the mountains.

"I doubt she even knew what mountains were," Carmella remembers, smiling. "But by God, within a week, she was getting on that chair lift all by herself."

It was only the beginning.

"I don't think there was ever really any intention that the kids were going to ski race," Rich says. "We just wanted them to be good enough to keep up with us so we could do some of these family vacations."

Shelley would do so much more than keep up.

• • •

Jim Tracy has been coaching for 29 years, the last 19 with the U.S. Ski Team. Now in his second year with the women's developmental team, he has coached a number of Olympians, including gold medalists Tommy Moe and Picabo Street.

"And Shelley was no different than them," Tracy says. "She just needed more experience, and she could have very easily achieved anything those guys did – maybe more."

Tracy pauses. "Shelley, in a word," he says, "was awesome."

At just about everything, both academically and athletically. She'd been accepted to all three colleges – Utah, New Hampshire and Denver – she applied to. She'd been all-city in swimming. She'd played in the Olympic Development Program in soccer and also played at West and for the Madison 56ers club team. West coach Donal Kaehler believes she would have been playing Division I soccer next year had she stuck with it.

"There's no doubt she was an incredible athlete," Kaehler says.

But after Shelley's freshman year at West, she realized she couldn't excel in soccer and skiing simultaneously. She'd been competing in skiing with her Tyrol Basin team, the Madison Alpine Race Team and in Junior Olympics, while also trying to play soccer full time. And it was wearing her out.

With her family's support, she opted for skiing, which meant transferring to Burke and moving to Vermont. It was a sacrifice for everyone, but turned out to be the right decision. She made the U.S. developmental team a year later, and went on to six top-five finishes in international-level (FIS) races. At the time of her death, Shelley was ranked ninth in the world (No. 1 in the U.S.) in the slalom in her age group and was the 10th-ranked American woman in the slalom regardless of age.

While Tracy admits that Shelley's chances of making the 2006 Olympics were a "long shot," he wasn't ruling her out.

"You never know," Tracy says. "But 2010? Absolutely. I've been to five Olympics, and it was a very, very realistic goal for her. For sure."

And yet, you'd never know it from the way she carried herself. After making the U.S. team, she was almost embarrassed about wearing her new team jacket on campus at Burke.

"In a lunchroom full of kids, you would never know that she was the one on the national team," says Eric Harlow, Shelley's coach and dorm parent at Burke. "It wasn't about the jacket she wore, it wasn't about the (FIS) points she had. She never acted like a superstar, which she certainly could have been."

• • •

That laugh. That contagious, infectious, unmistakable laugh. That's what everybody remembers. Everybody.

Two nights before Shelley's accident, Katie Hitchcock and the rest of her U.S. teammates were watching television in the living room of a rented house in Bend. But Shelley had a "Sex and the City" DVD she wanted to watch, so she borrowed Hitchcock's laptop computer and curled up in bed.

"And even with the door closed, all you heard was Shelley laughing," Hitchcock says.

Hitchcock had heard that laugh so many times before, and she can still hear it in her head today.

"I remember another time, I was skiing, and it was really foggy out. You couldn't see anything," Hitchcock continues. "Shelley was probably halfway down the hill, and I was at the top. And all I could hear was her laughing. It was definitely distinct."

Lesley LaMasurier, Shelley's teammate on the development team and classmate at Burke, calls it a "cackle." She heard it every time they snuck into the Olympic training center cafeteria together to make ice-cream sundaes. She heard it for 11 days straight when the two of them spent the April spring break at the LaMasurier's home in Virginia.

"You know, she just had a way of making everybody around her happy," LaMasurier says. "Whenever I picked up the phone when I was away, I called Shelley. Every time I came back to Burke, I went straight to her room. She was family to me. It just tears me apart that this happened when she was 17 years old."

• • •

In his nearly three decades of coaching, Jim Tracy had seen so much worse than what he saw on the morning of May 5.

"Believe me, I've seen plenty of really, really terrible crashes, and I've seen kids get up and walk away from them," Tracy says. "That's why it's so hard. I've seen kids fall like that hundreds of times."

Scheduled to leave the next morning for North Carolina, Shelley was the only skier working with Tracy and four other coaches that Wednesday morning on Mount Bachelor's Coffee Run. Shelley was planning to join her fellow Burke seniors on a class trip, which included volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity and a trip to the beach, and her flight was leaving early Thursday. That meant getting a few hours of work in while her teammates had the day off.

She was negotiating a series of rolls at a relatively low speed when she lost her balance and lurched forward, hitting her head on the hard-packed snow. Although she was wearing a helmet, she was knocked unconscious by the impact.

Tracy says he was 10 feet away when Shelley went down, and he was at her side in seconds. The ski patrol responded within minutes, and a medical helicopter and ambulance were dispatched immediately. They would have Shelley at the hospital within 35 minutes of the fall.

But as she was being loaded onto the helicopter, Shelley vomited because of the head trauma. She aspirated, sending her into cardiac arrest. Without a suction device on the helicopter to clear her airway, it wasn't until Shelley arrived at the hospital that doctors were able to revive her. She was without a pulse for about eight minutes, doctors told her mother.

• • •

The phone rang at the Glovers' near-West Side home around 11 o'clock that morning, and Carmella answered. Rich, a civil engineer for Planning Design Build Inc., was in Wisconsin Dells on a project when Carmella called him to relay the news. Unaware of the severity of Shelley's injuries, Rich hurried home, then took Carmella to the airport to catch the flight the U.S. Olympic Committee had arranged for her. USOC sports psychologist Jim Bauman met Carmella in Denver to accompany her to Oregon, and their flight arrived about 11:30 that night. Carmella went straight to the hospital.

"Even though I've been a nurse for 27 years, I walked in her room and I saw all the equipment ..." Carmella says, her voice trailing off. Then, she starts over. "I was prepared to take her home to Madison and take care of her. But it wasn't until they said to me 'critical condition' and that 'she would die if we transferred her' that it struck me. This was the end."

Rich arrived in Oregon Thursday night, and while Shelley was on a ventilator, he was still hopeful. But the combination of the lack of oxygen and trauma to her brain had caused it to swell, raising the intracranial pressure. Doctors couldn't relieve it. By Friday evening, Rich says, it was clear that "she wasn't going to recover."

The Glovers still don't know whether Shelley would have survived had she just suffered the head injury and not aspirated. "I certainly don't have all the questions answered," says Rich, who last Sunday morning toured the site of Shelley's fall. "We're still waiting for those."

Shelley's teammates, meanwhile, had no idea of the severity of her injuries. They even practiced the day after the crash.

"Saturday morning, we got to the hospital, and (Bauman) said, 'I'm not going to sugarcoat it. We need to go in and say our goodbyes to Shelley, because she's not going to make it.'" Hitchcock recalls. "And we all had this blank stare on our faces like, 'This can't be happening.'"

The team joined Carmella, Rich and Bonnie at Shelley's bedside. But while the rest of her teammates wandered in and out of the room, Hitchcock stayed. "Just something inside me didn't want to leave," she says. "We're family, you know?"

Doctors pronounced Shelley dead a short time later.

• • •

The line just kept going. Around the corner, through an anteroom, down the hallway – it seemed to stretch all the way to the Glovers' house a few blocks away.

Six days after he'd sat in that dark, lonely hospital room with his daughter, Rich was no longer alone. Far from it. He and Carmella knew Shelley had touched a lot of lives, but this, this was beyond comprehension.

The crowd at the funeral home for her memorial service Friday – on what would have been Shelley's 18th birthday – was overwhelming. The funeral home staff estimated that, during the 4-hour visitation, between 750 and 900 people had come through the doors.

The outpouring at Saturday's celebration of Shelley's life at the Pyle Center – where reflections from her best friend, Anna Hunt Golden, several teammates, Bonnie and Rich left the room alternately in stitches and in tears – was just as amazing.

"I don't think I understood the impact that this was having on people," Rich admits. He does know, though, what Shelley would have thought. "I think she'd be wondering what all the fuss was about. But that's just her. That's just how she was."

To honor Shelley, the Glovers established three funds in her name – one to support the U.S. Ski Team, one at Burke Academy, and one to promote athletics in the Madison Public School system. A beginners hill at Tyrol Basin will be renamed "Shelley's Run."

Kirk Dwyer, the headmaster at Burke, says plans are in the works to rename the academy's soccer field in Shelley's honor. There's also talk about an annual memorial race with U.S. Ski Team and Burke alumni. There will be another celebration, like Saturday's, at Burke on May 28, the day before Shelley would have graduated.

"I've been at ski academies for 30 years, and you don't often come across someone like Shelley who's so successful and yet so modest and such a good person," Dwyer says. "She really reached out and was like a big sister to a lot of kids here. The closeness of her relationships, I was somewhat aware of it, but I've become even more aware as the kids have talked about her this past week."

And that is what has gotten the Glovers through all this – learning just how much Shelley had meant to so many people and knowing that her life, tragically short as it was, ended with her doing what made her happy.

"I take solace in the fact that she died doing exactly what she loved more than anything in the world," Carmella says. "She absolutely loved the mountains, it was a sunny day, and she was absolutely in heaven. How many other people get to see the whole world, travel all over, spend their days skiing and playing soccer and swimming and meeting people all over the world, with a smile on their face, loving every minute of it? She was living life to the max."

• • •

You can reach Jason Wilde at 252-6176 or via e-mail at jwilde@madison.com.

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