In the world of high school sports, it’s easy to forget about outside problems and focus on the next game or meet.
The Erie-Prophetstown cross-country team had to band together to help out one of its own this past week.
Darrien Voeltz, a senior at Erie High School and one of the Panthers' top runners, was driving home from the school following the Class 1A Rock Falls Regional two Saturdays ago. According to E-P coach Liz Green and other sources, his car veered off Albany Road near Burns Road in rural Erie.
As he attempted to correct the mistake, that caused the car to flip multiple times. Voeltz had to be extricated from the car by local emergency responders and was taken to Genesis Hospital before being transferred to OSF in Peoria, where he is still in intensive care.
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At yesterday's Oregon Sectional, the team missed Voeltz, finishing 10th in the team race and not advancing to next week's state finals in Peoria. With Voeltz, the Panthers won their second straight Three Rivers Conference team title last month and easily advanced out of the Rock Falls Regional as a team.
After Saturday's sectional run, the team conducted a prayer circle for anyone to take part in. Almost every runner and spectator from every team joined in, and the circle was so large that it was hard to hear the prayer coming from the center of the circle.
Wristbands handed out by E-P coach Green and the rest of the Panthers team read “XC Strong Darrien Voeltz 17:40.” The 17:40 was his time from the Rock Falls Regional, which was the last race of his high school career.
The support from all of the teams and fans was remarkable. Most people at the meet did not know Voeltz personally, and some did not even really know the whole story. Everyone banded together to help a team and a community that is in the process of healing, as is Voeltz.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to support Voeltz and his family. When the Dispatch-Argus went to press on Saturday night, it had already raised $1,870 by just 34 donors. You can find the fundraiser at https://www.gofundme.com/f/we-darrien.