High school track team races for suicide awareness after losing a former teammate

Jan 21, 2023, 9:10 PM | Updated: Jan 22, 2023, 1:06 pm

PROVO, Utah — More than a thousand athletes gathered at their first big high school track meet of the season, with one team running to honor a former teammate on Saturday.

Jackson Merrill was up all night thinking about it.

“It is incredible. There are so many people here,” Merrill expressed. “This whole week, I have been a little jittery, like, ‘oh, what is going to happen? I hope I do good.'”

Fellow competitors and teammates at Brigham Young University’s Smith Fieldhouse felt the same way. However, only those on Merrill’s team also felt something that is tougher to explain.

His former GoldMedal Athletics teammate, Treven Brazier, took his own life just a couple of weeks ago. He was 20 years old.

“I found out, my dad woke me up, and as I woke up way early, he was like, ‘hey, did you hear what happened?’ It was hard. It was really hard. I was not expecting it,” Merrill said.

To honor Brazier, the guys on the GoldMedal Athletics team decided to run wearing yellow arm sleeves, which is what Brazier used to run in.

“It was so he could see himself in the videos, like, to see where he was at and what he needs to do,” said Jonathan Pugmire, who was close friends with Brazier.

The girls on the team wore yellow ribbons in their hair in his honor.

“I think it really just shows how much we care for our team,” said Brooklyn Sturdivant.

The yellow armbands worn by the boy runners on the team. (KSL-TV's Ray Boone) Brilee Pontius wearing the headband at her Colorado meet. ( Courtesy: Brilee Pontius) Yellow headbands worn by the girl runners on the team (KSL-TV's Ray Boone)

Even though Brazier graduated high school and was running in college, his teammates say he will always be a member of this team. So, they felt like they had to run for him.

“It’s like, one of the most emotional races I have had just because we are running in place for him. We are running in his honor. It is really cool,” said Kale Pontius.

GoldMedal Athletics coach Sean Maye said he is proud of how close his athletes have come together.

“This is the first athlete we have ever lost to something like this. We were devastated,” said Coach Maye. “But I just told the kids we have got to be strong, the older kids, and we will be okay.”

Brilee Pontius, a former teammate of Brazier’s and now runs for BYU, wore a similar yellow ribbon in her hair Saturday for a track meet in Colorado.

“I made ribbons for all the girls on the team,” she said.

Everyone who knew Brazier, who was known as “T-Ball,” has stories of how much he meant to them.

“He was such an inspiration and was such a leader on the team,” Merrill said. “He was awesome and he was awesome for the team. We’ll all miss him.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, text or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or the Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at Huntsman Mental Health Institute.


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High school track team races for suicide awareness after losing a former teammate