The drowning death of 16-year-old Kreg "K.J." Harrison on Wednesday has left the Snow Canyon High School and greater St. George communities in mourning.
Snow Canyon had a reason to celebrate at the end of the school year, taking home the Class 3A baseball championship. But the death of one of the players who helped deliver it has been nothing short of devastating for his family, his teammates and friends.
"I can’t really believe it," coach Reed Secrist said. "He was definitely well respected here, the type that didn’t have a bad thing to say about anybody. It obviously leaves a huge hole in our baseball program, but that doesn’t seem to be as important now."
Harrison, a rising junior at the school, drowned in the Supai Canyon, located on the west side of the Grand Canyon near Flagstaff, Ariz. According to Coconino County Sheriff spokesman Gerry Blair, Harrison was visiting the canyon with his Boy Scout troop, and he was swimming in a pool of water beneath a waterfall. A strong undercurrent pulled him under, and three other Scouts were unable to help him.
When he was finally pulled to shore, a doctor who was traveling with the troop tried to administer CPR but was ultimately unsuccessful. Other members of the troop created a human chain to rescue two more boys who were trapped under the falls.
News of his death reached St. George on Wednesday afternoon. Harrison leaves behind his parents and five older sisters, as well as a large community who remembered him as a fun person to be around.
Even as an underclassman on the baseball team, Harrison’s upbeat personality won over his older teammates.
"K.J. was always smiling: He loved life," teammate Austin Ovard said. "In the tournament, he was never scared or nervous, and that’s hard for a sophomore. He knew how to get the job done."
Ovard added that he knew a lot of Snow Canyon students had felt the ripple of Harrison’s death. Many gathered for a candlelight vigil at the school’s baseball field Thursday evening to honor their classmate.
"The biggest thing is we just have to try to be more like him, to live how he lived," Ovard said.
Secrist’s own son, Brogan, was close with Harrison as a teammate as well as off the field. Reed Secrist said Harrison had been over many times, and since his death, his son had been struggling.
"We’re trying to make sure they’re all right and help them through the grieving process," Secrist said. "K.J. was a good friend to everybody, and the team has been spending time together."
Harrison played second base for the championship Warriors team. Secrist said the title he helped Snow Canyon win would always be a little more hollow without him.
"We were getting ready to get our championship rings," he said. "Now there will be one missing."
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