1,000 Runners Pay Tribute to Jenna's Spirit at #JennaStrong Fall Classic

Student/Athlete Remembered for Her Compassion and Caring for Others

October 21, 2013

Tricia Steffen, a WC cross country runner and one of Jenna Parlette's best friends, embraces Parlette's mother, Lisa, before the race.

Tricia Steffen, a WC cross country runner and one of Jenna Parlette's best friends, embraces Parlette's mother, Lisa, before the race.


The spirit of Jenna Parlette loomed large as nearly 1,000 collegiate cross country runners competed on her home course at Wilmington College Friday (Oct. 18) in a longstanding meet newly named in her memory.

WC added #JennaStrong to the 21st annual Fall Classic event name in tribute to Parlette, the Wilmington College junior that collapsed Aug. 31 while leading a cross country race in Indiana with the finish line in sight. She died three days later.

Members of her family, teammates, cross country alumni, friends from her hometown, Miamisburg, and student-athletes from some 45 men and women’s cross country teams attended a brief ceremony prior to the races.

There, Wilmington’s head coach, Ron Combs, praised Parlette for both her running prowess and her extraordinary personal attributes that endeared her as the ultimate teammate.

“This is a sad day for me, but yet an exciting day for me,” Combs said. “People ask how you’re doing. ‘Not that well.’ We just try to move on each day.

(LEFT) Jenna Parlette's mother, Lisa, displays the #1 racing bib presented to her as a memento of the newly named #JennaStrong Fall Classic. She is pictured with, from the left, President Jim Reynolds, cross country coach Ron Combs and Terry Rupert, vice president for athletics administration.

“Jenna was just an amazing person,” he added. “She showed amazing compassion and caring for other people. No matter how bad a day I was having, whenever she walked into my office, my day instantly got better. I find myself staring at my door expecting her to walk in — it’s tough to realize that she’s not going to.”

Combs mentioned how the meet that started 21 years ago with four teams will continue as the #JennaStrong Fall Classic.

“I’m proud we can carry on Jenna’s name through this meet,” he said, noting that a boulder has been placed in an area where runners cross Lytle Creek on WC’s course. A plaque in memory of the fallen runner will be fastened to the rock.

“I feel Jenna will be watching each runner as they go past,” he added.

Parlette’s uncle, Jeff Parlette, expressed his family’s appreciation to Wilmington College for its support in the seven weeks since she ran her final race at Franklin College in Indiana. WC hosted a campus memorial service two days after Parlette’s passing and has established an endowed scholarship fund in her name.

“It really means a lot to us,” he said. “We’re really glad we got to be part of the Wilmington College cross country family.”

Special recognition was given to Danelle Readinger, coach at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and an emergency room nurse, who was the first responder at the scene when Parlette collapsed, and the Franklin College cross country team, which, among other entities, has raised funds for the scholarship.
More than $3000 has already been raised for the fund.

Persons wishing to contribute to the #JennaStrong Scholarship Fund can send a check made payable to Wilmington College, with a notation indicating #JennaStrong, c/o Wilmington College, Office of Advancement, 1870 Quaker Way, Wilmington, OH 45177.