Vigil held for Pullman High School grad

Community members, family, friends honor life of murdered student



Lauren McCluskey’s grandparents, Ross and Joyce Rudeen, pass glowsticks that replaced candles at their granddaughter’s vigil Wednesday night at the Pullman High School track.

CARMEN JARAMILLO, Evergreen reporter

Family, friends, classmates and community members gathered Wednesday to remember the life of Lauren McCluskey, the 21-year-old former Pullman High School track star who was murdered Monday night at University of Utah.

“I don’t know how we’re going to get on without her but we have to,” McCluskey’s grandfather Ross Rudeen said. “It’s hard to think she’s gone.”

Attendees said the things they loved most about McCluskey were her kindness, her dedication and her honesty.

Desiree Gould, the McCluskeys’ neighbor and former Pullman High School assistant principal, helped organize the vigil. She said when she heard the news of McCluskey’s death she felt like, she had to do something for the family because of the kindness they showed her when her husband passed.

Gould said McCluskey was a hardworking student who was kind to everyone and kept her friends smiling.

“She was just a nice and calm and quiet person but she was also a quiet leader,” Gould said. “I’m hoping she’s up there with my husband, because he loved to give her a hard time about things so he’s probably up there giving her a hard time.”

McCluskey competed in track and field at University of Utah where she was the 10th all-time in pentathlon. McCluskey was also the Washington state champion in high jump while in high school as well as the Pullman High School record-holder in the 100 meter hurdles.

Chris Vogel, McCluskey’s former track coach, said when he first met her she was extremely quiet and reserved. Over the course of the four years they worked together, he said, McCluskey opened up and pushed herself extremely hard to succeed, sometimes to the point of frustration.

“That’s why she ended up as a Pac-12 athlete, because she had that uncommon dedication that you so rarely see in anybody,” Vogel said. “She was such a beautiful athlete in so many ways.”

The vigil was held at the Pullman High School track to reflect McCluskey’s commitment to track and field. After a short service of shared memories, prayers and kind words, attendees symbolically walked around the track to remember McCluskey.

Authorities at University of Utah said McCluskey had expressed concerns for her safety in the days before her death. Ron Mittelhammer, former dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences and close family friend of the McCluskeys, spoke at the event. He said he was angry at University of Utah for what he said was a “negligent lack of follow-through” that lead to McCluskey’s death.

Rudeen expressed a similar sentiment that McCluskey’s death was a senseless tragedy that could have been prevented.

Mittelhammer also spoke about McCluskey’s love of animals. He said the McCluskey family has a cat named Victory who McCluskey loved deeply.

“Now all of us humans and all of us animals will no longer have the opportunity to experience the abundance of [McCluskey’s] love and support,” he said.

Shortly following the honorary walk around the track while attendees mingled and remembered McCluskey, a lone house cat wandered onto the track and curiously investigated the wreath of flowers underneath which McCluskey’s picture sat.

Attendees exclaimed at the coincidence. Eve Fortenbery, a friend of the family, stopped mid-sentence to watch the feline near McCluskey’s memorial wreath.

“Look at that,” she said. “Cats and kittens were her favorite.”

McCluskey’s grandmother Joyce Rudeen said imagining her granddaughter in heaven helps her get through the pain of losing her.

“She had strong faith, so I feel like she’s with God now,” Rudeen said. “I don’t like to picture her just lying there with a bullet in her head, I picture her in the arms of Christ.”

Another vigil, organized by McCluskey’s former classmates, will be held Nov. 1 at the Pullman High School track.