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Farragut girls’ track team still recovering
Trapped athlete talks about her ordeal

It began as a routine school bus ride for a group of Farragut High School athletes returning from a track meet March 30. While the girls chatted and contemplated their performance at the competition, the unthinkable occurred, creating a scene of shock and terror in an instant.

Some of the girls watched as a sport-utility vehicle merged from Lovell Road onto Pellissippi Parkway striking their bus and causing it to tip over. The bus landed on its side sliced by a guardrail and ended up facing in the wrong direction.

Though a couple of weeks have passed since the accident, the athletes riding the bus that night are still recovering from a variety of injuries. Though none life threatening, several students spent a few hours at area hospitals.

Coach Scott McKenzie said many girls have not been able to return to practice. Athletes are dealing with back and ankle injuries and various bruises and cuts. One student is healing from compressed-fractured vertebrae, another from a bruised kidney.

One of the students involved was junior Julie Ann Fenstermaker.

“It was so scary because it felt unreal. You can see what’s happening but you don’t understand it,” she said.

Fenstermaker said the experience has strengthened the team’s bond.

“We’re best friends, so it’s upsetting when you have a scare like that,” she said.

Assistant coach Kristin Baksa accompanied the team on the bus and despite her own injuries supported them through the scare. Baksa said some of the girls remained calm while others did not. One of the athletes who needed extra attention was sophomore Jessyca Sterling.

Sterling was the only student who was not able to get herself out of the bus. She ended up pinned in, sitting sideways.

Baksa explained how Sterling’s typical reaction after the crash made a difference.

“She was anxious to get off the bus. She was trying to rush which helped make her get stuck,” Baksa said.

Sterling said several people stopped and tried to help get her out, but it was Baksa who stayed by her side.

“She saved me the whole time. It was so nice of her to do that. I don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t been there for me,” Sterling said.

Baksa recalls that the situation was chaotic.

“I had to tune everything else out. I just tried to calm her down,” she said.

Baksa said she has no idea how long she remained by Sterling’s side before she was extracted from the bus.

“It was like time stopped,” she said.

Time would not stop however for the team who was determined to return to the track and compete. Baksa explained how one relay team encouraged each other to compete soon after the accident.

“Christin Olsen, Julie Ann Fenstermaker, Andrea North and Tiffany Whitney are a great relay team. They were all on the bus, but it takes all of them to be able to compete. They helped each other get back out there,” Baksa said.

Another student ready to return to competition Friday is freshman Caroline Sneed.

Sneed left the wreck with a jaw and back injury and a cut on her shoulder.

“It was so scary. I remember swerving and tipping on our side. I was in a state of shock,” she said.

Sneed said the team was not aware of Sterling’s injuries, as she lay pinned in the bus.

“We had no idea what was going on with Jessyca. It was scary not knowing how badly she was hurt,” she said.

Sneed said the accident was a life changing experience.

“Our friendships are stronger, and I appreciate the little things in life more,” she said.

McKenzie wants to see the girls continue to recover and return to the team. The team met with the school psychologist and some girls are in physical therapy.

“We have to and are ready to jump back in,” McKenzie said.

“We all can’t wait until everyone’s back to full health. We’ve lost some training, and this has put a damper on the season. But we’re all really ready to get back out there,” Sneed said.

Sterling agreed.

“Track is my favorite thing to do, and I can’t wait to get back out there,” she said.


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