By Jeffrey Smith, News On 6
UNDATED -- The family of a 21-year-old man who died during Sunday's Route 66 Marathon is speaking out. Kjell Tovander collapsed near a medical tent during the 13-mile, half-marathon race.
His parents say he never regained consciousness.
Kjell's mom says her son was both a gentleman and a scholar and while that's a common expression, everyone who knew him says this young man's potential was limitless.
Kjell Tovander just turned 21 last month and already his life had the stuff of Hollywood movies. He was valedictorian of his high school. Spent three years studying engineering at M.I.T. and he was all set for a career in the Navy.
"And then it all ended when he was running in the marathon yesterday," said Margie Tovander.
Kjell's heart gave out during the Route 66 Half Marathon.
"They worked on him for 30 minutes, but they could never ever get a pulse," said Margie Tovander.
His mom says she lost her best friend.
"He inspired everyone. Touched a lot of lives. Mostly me," said Margie Tovander.
His Claremore science teachers say Kjell was something special.
"There were times, whenever we were trying to organize lab groups, and everyone wanted to be in Kjell's group. In his lab group because he was such a smart guy, a kind and compassionate young," said biology teacher, Denise Radcliff.
Margie Tovander says her son was overweight throughout high school, but he started jogging last year. His first road race was September's 3-mile Race for the Cure. Then, he completed the 9-mile Tulsa Run.
"He had just had a physical a few months ago with the Navy, and everything came out perfect," said Margie Tovander.
She says her boy had the heart of a gentleman and the mind of a genius.
"He had boxes and boxes of honors for him. Awards and I didn't even know he had half of them. He just never gave them to me," said Margie Tovander.
Kjell was a self-taught piano player and a member of the marching band. But what Margie says she'll miss the most is the quiet music of her son's voice.
"It's hard. It's really hard. I can't, can't even put it into words, it's so hard," said Margie Tovander.
Margie Tovander says the hardest thing for her right now is she keeps seeing Kjell's face from Sunday morning as she was preparing his pre-race bagel and cream cheese.
She says she can't believe he won't be coming home again, but she hopes his dignity and intelligence can continue to inspire others.
11/16/2008 - Runner Collapses And Dies During Marathon