Reflection by Lauren
 
 

Ben was one of the first people I met at TJ, as cross country practices started before the school year.  While I know that I had many more interactions with him, nearly all of the memories that have stuck are from cross country.  In the beginning, I was intimidated by TJ -- I was one of the only people coming from my small catholic school, and it was so many firsts -- first public school, first time not wearing a uniform, first time having more than 50 students in my class, first time on a running team, first time being surrounded by the caliber of student who attended the school.  Ben was warm and welcoming, and one of our first conversations centered on the fact that Ben wanted to be a volunteer firefighter as his profession. That, and his ear-to-ear smile, comforted me that things would be OK.  I cannot tell you how invaluable it was to meet someone as friendly and down-to-earth as Ben.

 

At cross country, Ben was the consummate leader.  He pushed himself so hard.  My recollection is that there were other team members who were naturally faster than Ben, but none worked as hard.  His work ethic pushed us all to be better. So many images run through my mind from practices and meets -- Ben leading the pack of the men's team, Ben cheering all of the member's on the women's team like crazy, Ben's custom zoom loco shoes.  In particular, I remember races at Burke Lake Park -- there was an uphill section that you had to circle around before coming back to the finish.  It was a tough section for everyone, but Ben would lead the team in cheering for the runners just at the right point to push us up the hill.  It was that kind of teamwork that got us to states!

 

I went to the Homecoming dance with Ben his senior year.  He had decided to put his hair into dreadlocks a few weeks before the dance, which I understood took a fair amount of time and effort.  It wasn't a style I was the biggest fan of, so Ben conditioned his hair for the dance (as you can see in the attached picture).  Ben was such a gentleman, and we had a great time.  After the dance, we went bowling with friends and we all selected names of philosophers for the scoreboard.  It was a lot of fun, and it was my first dance, so it's a special memory for me.

 

Finally, Ben was incredibly loyal and kind.  One of my friends was bi-polar and struggled very badly during high school.  He met Ben through Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  I can personally attest to how difficult it was to be a good friend when this guy was down, and a lot of people were alienated by him, but Ben remained a very supportive and good friend.