Matt Deery will not physically be a part of the Lipscomb track and cross country teams, but his spirit is always going to be present at practices and meets.
Monday night the teams met together for the first time since Deery’s tragic death in a traffic accident Aug. 1 in Upper Nazareth Township, Pa. Members of both teams are wearing purple bands emblazoned with Deery’s name and the date of his death and the words “In our hearts forever”. Weight-training T-shirts include his initials on the back. And the “Fightin’ Bison” team award, presented to the toughest competitor on the team, will be renamed in his honor.
Coach Bill Taylor admitted it was a difficult time for everyone involved.
“There is obviously nothing good about this,” Taylor said. “It is a horrible thing. It has been very tough on our team in so many ways.
“Matt was an absolutely incredible person. He would have just kept growing in so many ways. I have challenged people to think of the best traits of Matt and make some of them their own, being tough, humble, motivating people, taking care of others. The list is pretty long.”
Deery won the “Fightin’ Bison” award as a freshman and was also named freshman of the year in vote of his teammates and coaches. He set five school records in both track and field events and was named Second-Team All-Conference in the Atlantic Sun.
“We are going to put his name on the “Fightin’ Bison” award because he represented what that award is,” Taylor said.
Thursday, Aug. 23, there will be a memorial service for Matt Deery on the Lipscomb campus. Approximately 20 members of his family will also be in attendance.
From 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. there will be a reception and visitation with the Deery family in the first floor of the A.M. Burton School of Pharmacy building.
The memorial service will be held in Collins Auditorium from 11 a.m. until noon and is open to the public. The service will also be streamed online at http://www.lipscomb.edu/live
Following the service there will be a luncheon for the Deery family and the track and cross country teams along with staff members and coaches.
“We have always been a very close team,” Taylor said. “We have amazing character in our program. I believe we have the tightest, most friendly, most close-knit team in the nation at the Division I level. We stand apart in how we do things and what our culture is.
“I think that this is going to pull us even closer together. And more than that, I hope that it causes us to value each other even more.”
The 19-year-old from Phillipsburg, N.J., was a leader at a young age. His teammates had a great respect for him.
Deery was known as a hard worker, but was also known for his ability to positively encourage his teammates to take their abilities to another level.
“We will remember his motivation to win and his motivation to push others to win and get better,” teammate Kenny Smith said. “He had an outgoing personality. He had a willingness to do anything for anybody. That was unusual for a freshman.
“When he stepped on the track he was going to give everything and we knew he was going to give everything. He would do five events where most of us would do three or maybe two.”
Smith stressed that the plan is to dedicate the season to Matt.
“There was nothing more than Matt wanted to do than to win,” Smith said. “We want to win the conference for ourselves and for Matt.”
Tucker Peabody, at first at a loss in how to respond to the situation, decided to go out on his own and produce the wrist bands that were presented to each team member Monday night.
“Being away from him and being away from the team was tough after I heard the news,” Peabody said. “I couldn’t just sit around and be depressed all the time so I made the wrist bands.
“If I feel like giving up early and quitting I just look at that. I remember his attitude and how he pushed me.”
Peabody readily admits the season will be tougher to endure because of Deery’s absence.
“He was our backbone,” Peabody said. “He stepped up to the plate. We were such a young team and we needed that leadership. If you were struggling in practice he always knew what to say and how to pick you up.
“He never complained about anything. He was never down in practice. He was always positive. As a team we have to find a way to have that same attitude.”
Taylor Mason, who was also a pole vaulter like Deery, wonders why something like this had to happen to such a dynamic person.
“Why was he the one taken? That’s the thought that is going through everybody’s mind,” Mason said. “He was such a good kid. He was such a hard competitor, an incredible athlete and a great friend.
“He still had so much to accomplish. He was going to do incredible things in his sport. And he was someone we felt like we needed so much as a team. We can't understand why he had to be taken.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.