By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — Juan Mendoza, a Marysville Getchell High School student killed in a car crash Monday, was a solid, well-liked student and standout soccer player from a close-knit family.
“We are heartbroken,” neighbor Robert Hardie, 84, said Tuesday. “I can’t think of nicer neighbors to have. They’re a family of high-quality people.”
Mendoza, 16, a high school junior, split time between Running Start courses at Everett Community College and the Bio-Med Academy on the Marysville Getchell campus, where he was taking physics and pre-calculus. He made the varsity soccer team at Marysville Pilchuck High School as a freshman and sophomore and was looking forward to playing for the new high school on the hill in the spring. He was an honorable mention selection to the Wesco North soccer team as a sophomore last year.
This fall, he was running for the Marysville Getchell cross country team. Injured in Monday’s crash along with him were two other teammates.
The three young men were in a Honda Civic that left the steep, two-lane county road and struck a tree in the 8100 block of 108th Street NE, west of Highway 9. Tire tracks from the crash were visible Tuesday morning near a small roadside memorial. Speed is believed to be a factor in the crash, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
Mendoza, the driver, died from head injuries at the scene. Passengers Lars Kundu and Andy Vavrousek were taken by helicopter to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Kundu, the son of former Marysville School Board member Michael Kundu, was listed in critical condition in intensive care Tuesday but was expected to survive and recover from head and back injuries. Vavrousek, whose mother teaches for the school district, was listed in satisfactory condition Tuesday, officials said.
“Our hearts go out to the students and families involved in this tragic accident,” Marysville School District Superintendent Larry Nyland said. “We mourn the loss of Juan, and our prayers are with all of the families.”
The boys apparently were headed to cross-country team practice when the crash occurred.
Marysville Getchell cross country coach Randy Edens said he and the team learned about the crash after practice. Edens on Tuesday said he will leave it up to his runners whether or not they want to compete in an upcoming district tournament.
Mendoza attended Sunnyside Elementary School, Marysville Middle School and later Marysville Pilchuck and Marysville Getchell.
The district had a team of grief counselors at Marysville Getchell on Tuesday morning to provide support to the four schools on the campus.
Marysville Pilchuck campus counselors also were prepared to support students as needed.
Several locations were designated at each school where students could gather for support. Counselors were available at each of those locations. Students set up a memorial at the Getchell flag pole with flowers, candles and pictures of Mendoza. They also made posters and wrote poetry in the teen’s memory.
Bio-Med Academy Principal Judith Murdock said Mendoza was liked by his peers and excelled in the classroom. He particularly enjoyed his math and science courses.
“There was just a fun-loving side to him,” Murdock said. “He was just such a gentleman and a scholar. Everybody loved him, and that’s what made it just such a hard day.”
Students were somber on the Getchell campus Tuesday. They passed by or gathered at the memorial for short periods of time to pay their respects.
“It’s tragic,” said Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring, whose son, Nathan, was a close friend of Mendoza.
The teens spent their Saturday working on job resumes together and handing them out to prospective employers. The next day, they had a soccer game.
“They were always talking about what they were going to do with their futures, what schools they were going to go to, what jobs they were going to seek,” Nehring said. “He definitely had vision and motivation and a bright, bright future.”
Nehring spent time with the Mendoza family on Tuesday morning.
“Juan was just the best,” Nehring said. “He was a great kid, a great son, a great brother and a great friend.”
Mendoza’s select soccer coach, Daghan Kesim, said he wants to honor his friendly young player’s memory. The team plans to wear black jerseys with Juan’s name above the player’s numbers.
“To be honest I don’t think I ever cried in my life this much,” Kesim said. “He is definitely a kid who wanted to get more out of life.”
Kesim said Mendoza hoped to play soccer in college. His studies also mattered, and he worked hard in school.
What impressed the coach most was how hard Mendoza worked to improve.
“At the end of training, he would always ask, ‘What can I do to get better?’”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, email@example.com.
A memorial account was established Tuesday. Contributions can be made to the Juan Mendoza Memorial Account, Home Street Bank, 1238 State Avenue, Marysville, 98270.
The funeral service is set for 2:30 p.m. Friday at St. Mary Catholic Church. 4200 88th Street NE, Marysville.