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Nebraska track star collapses, dies at 18 years old

By Sarah May
|
May 10, 2023

Sad news emerged out of Wisner, Nebraska last week when an 18-year-old high school senior collapsed during track practice and later died at a local hospital, as the Daily Mail reports.

According to reports, no cause has yet been announced in the death of Hunter Palmer, who was also a star running back at Wisner-Pilger High School and had committed to play football this fall at Midland University.

Sudden, Unexpected Death

The Associated Press reported that just one day prior to his death, Palmer was a competitor in a school track meet in which he not only won the high jump, but also topped his prior personal best in the event.

In that same track meet, Palmer was a member of a relay team that finished in second place.

Given those very recent, athletically impressive performances, there was no indication that Palmer had been experiencing any physical difficulties prior to Friday's track practice, and his collapse and subsequent passing came as a shock to all.

Compounding the tragedy is the fact that the multi-sport athlete was poised to graduate from high school with the rest of his class in a matter of days, as the New York Post noted.

School District Confirms

In the immediate aftermath of Palmer's death, the Wisner-Pilger School District issued a statement that began, “It is with a very heavy heart that we can confirm that Hunter Palmer, senior at Wisner-Pilger Schools, has died."

District officials further noted that a crisis response team would be made available to students to help them begin to process the tragedy.

“It is important for parents to check in on their children during this difficult time,” the district's statement continued.

Noting that “[g]rief is very complicated and can affect each child differently,” district officials encouraged families to contact the high school if their student needed particular assistance.

Midland University Football Reacts

Publicly mourning the passing of his talented recruit was Jared Jamrog, head football coach at Midland University, where Palmer was headed to join the ranks of college athletes in mere months.

“Yesterday heaven gained a great young man. Our hearts are heavy, and we are all suffering with the pain of the loss of Hunter Palmer,” a formal statement from Jamrog began.

The coach continued, “Our staff really enjoyed recruiting Hunter. He was a dynamic young man who was an absolute pleasure to be around. Hunter was someone so special and will never be forgotten.”

Expressing condolences to Palmer's family, friends, and the entire Wisner-Pilger community, Jamrog ended his tribute by saying, “May you rest in eternal peace Hunter. We miss you already.”

Celebration of Life Planned

Palmer was scheduled to be laid to rest on Wednesday following visitation hours and a funeral service at the Wisner City Auditorium, according to an obituary for the young man.

Remembered for his notable skills in football, basketball, golf, and track, Palmer was said to have also loved wrestling and baseball and was a fan of the Green Bay Packers and Clemson Tigers.

“He loved hanging out with friends, driving around, watching Netflix, lifting weights, singing, and drinking Dr. Pepper,” his family lovingly recalled.

Mourners attending Wednesday's service were asked to wear Wisner-Pilger clothing or bright-colored garments in celebration of what was a vivid life full of promise that ended far too soon.