A metro Atlanta community is mourning a local student who died after collapsing on the track during summer workouts Monday morning.
Elyse Purefoy, a rising senior and member of the dance team at Arabia Mountain High School in Stonecrest, Georgia, was participating in summer training when she passed out while running on the track, her father told Atlanta station WSB-TV.
The 17-year-old was rushed to DeKalb Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
“Elyse was very determined, hardworking,” Hank Purefoy said of his beloved daughter. “She was a 3.9 [GPA] student; she had all the accolades. She worked very hard this year. She outworked everybody.”
Purefoy’s family and friend’s described her as a happy and healthy teen, making her death all that harder to understand.
“She was a beautiful spirit,” the grieving dad added. “We’re gonna miss her.”
Authorities are still investigating the cause and manner of the teen’s death, but Hank Purefoy said he believes his daughter died as a result of “extreme dehydration.” According to CBS46, several dance team members said Elyse asked coaches for a water break multiple times during practice but was denied.
Workouts started just after 7:30 a.m. Monday, during which Purefoy and her teammates were told to run several laps around the school’s track. After the run, witnesses said Purefoy suddenly collapsed.
Emergency responders were called in, but it was too late. The 17-year-old’s heart stopped while en route to the hospital.
“Just last night, I was helping her practice her stands for a dance,” Purefoy’s sister, Elona, said through tears. “And now she’s gone.”
Friend and teammate Arianna Ameler argued that the incident should serve as a wakeup call for coaches to listen to their students.
“Schools need to take it more seriously when they hear complaints from their participants,” she told CBS46. “I think a lot of it is overlooked sometimes as you being weak.”
Friends and family gathered in the nearby municipality of Lithonia on Monday to remember the beloved young woman. Purefoy’s father said not only was Elyse a high-achiever but was also captain of the cheer squad and a member of the Future Business Leaders of America.
“She was my first real friend that I made on my own,” Lauren Lindsay told WSB-TV, wiping away her tears with her shirt sleeve. “I’ve known her since first grade.”
DeKalb County Schools issued the following statement:
“The entire DeKalb County School District community, and especially the Arabia Mountain High School family, mourns the passing of a member of the school’s dance team. Our hearts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.”
A GoFundMe page launched by the Purefoy family has already exceeded its $5,000 goal, collecting $7,244 in donations.
Officials said the cause of the teen’s death remains under investigation.
Watch more in the video below.