Prayer Vigil Honors Drowned VSU Student

By: Matt Galka; Greg Gullberg Email
By: Matt Galka; Greg Gullberg Email

[Update] Valdosta, Ga. - Aug 12, 2012 -

The members of VSU's cross-country team know well that grieving and healing is a team sport.

18-year-old Tajay Hoppines was eager to start college, but he never had the chance to attend his first class.

"He was a great guy to say the least," said Paul Guzman, Hoppines' dormitory resident assistant. "(He was) very intelligent. He loved higher thinking and questions that get his brain rattling."

The cross-country team took a trip to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park Wednesday for a team building exercise. But the Suwannee County Sheriff says Hoppines went for a swim in the river and was over powered by the strength of the current. His body was found the next day by rescue teams as his family waited helplessly nearby.

"We thought this would be the best way of healing for the family as well as the athletic team and for the community to come together and show they're supporting them," said Trea Brenson, VSU's Sports Chaplain.

"I just wish he was here," said Guzman.

Hoppines was a multi-sport athlete at Mill Creek High School outside of Atlanta. His primary sports were cross-country running and soccer.

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[Update] Valdosta, Ga. - Aug 12, 2012 -

A prayer vigil will be held at VSU Sunday night for Tajay Hoppines who drowned in the Suwannee River Wednesday. It will be in the front law at 8 pm.

Hoppines was just about to start his Freshman year at Valdosta State University where he had already joined the cross-country team. He went on what was supposed to be a three-day team building trip to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. The Suwannee County Sheriff's Office says he went under water in the same exact spot where a Hamilton County man is believed to have drowned less than a month ago.

The sheriff says Hoppines tried to swim out to a sandbar, but the current was too strong. His body was recovered the following day by search teams as Hoppines' family joined the rescue teams.

Hoppines was a multi-sport athlete at Mill Creek High School outside of Atlanta.

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Suwannee County, Florida- August 9, 2012

The body of a teen has been found under the waters of the Suwannee River. The Suwannee County Sheriff's department says the teen went missing yesterday and they found his body tonight. He was just about to start his Freshman year at Valdosta State University.

"It's a sad day. It's a tragic loss," says VSU's Athletic Director, Herb Reinhard.

Reinhard tells us Hoppines' cross country team mates are devastated by his death.

"They've lost a team mate. They were going to spend time together today. I know that they certainly want their thoughts and prayers to be going out to T.J's family, also."

Hoppines went on what was supposed to be a 3-day team building trip to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. The Suwannee County Sheriff's Office says he went under water in the same exact spot where a Hamilton County man is believed to have drowned less than a month ago.

Says Tony Cameron, Suwannee County Sheriff: "The victim was there with a group of students, other group of student athletes that are on a cross country track team, and they had been running all during the day out at the Spirit of the Suwannee, out in that area."

The sheriff says Hoppines tried to swim out to a sandbar. But he was lost in the river. Never to be found until now. His family joined the rescue teams Thursday, waiting helplessly during the search.

Hoppines was a multi-sport athlete at Mill Creek High School outside of Atlanta. Just three days ago he tweeted "Waking up and realizing ur in college. I love my life... hash tag VSU16."

Hoppines' Cross Country team mates got back to campus late last night. They were greeted by the VSU Counseling Center who is providing services for the team and other students as requested.
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Suwannee County, Florida- August 9, 2012

The search continues for a local teenager who may have drowned in the Suwannee River, Wednesday. The 18-year-old was getting ready to start his Freshman year at Valdosta Sate University.

Tragedy struck at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Wednesday night. The Suwannee County Sheriff's Office says that Tayjay Hoppines went under the water in the same exact spot that a Hamilton County man drowned at less than a month ago.

Says Tony Cameron, Suwannee County Sheriff: "The victim was there with a group of students, other group of student athletes that are on a cross country track team, and they had been running all during the day out at the Spirit of the Suwannee, out in that area."

The Sheriff's Office says that Hoppines, an incoming Freshman member of the Valdosta State University cross-country team, tried to swim out to a sandbar in the river.That's when he went under and his teammates could not locate him.

His high school soccer coach heard the news Thursday afternoon: "He was just a great person. A fantastic teammate. All of his friends knew that he would do anything for them. He was a kid who loved life and always had a smile on his face, and an awesome competitor."


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