This one was for Coach Scott Beigel.
The coach who knew little about cross country running but knew how to motivate his team. The coach who would break the tension at the starting line by making his runners laugh. The coach who gave his life while trying to protect his students from a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week.
“He almost never failed to make people laugh,” said Nick Boyer, 18, the captain of Douglas’ boys team. “If he were here right now, he’d probably say everyone was just there for the free food.”
On Tuesday, hundreds of people flocked to Pine Trails Park in Parkland — not for the food, but to run for Beigel and the 16 others who died Feb. 14.
Led by Beigel’s girls and boys cross country teams, runners filled the field, many donning Douglas shirts and colors in solidarity. Some came from Miami, some from Palm Beach. Some came with strollers and others came with dogs. Most just came to show support.
“I just felt like I need to be here and be a part of the community,” said Betty Jean Poznak, who came from Boca Raton.
The run became a movement with the help of social media. People dedicated their runs to Beigel, and posted pictures with #runwithcoachbeigel and #runwithmsdcx.
Alyssa Fletcher, one of the captains of the girls team, said the support has been amazing. “This really has brought everyone together,” she said.
Before team members could give their opening speeches, the crowd on the starting line took off running.
Fletcher’s answer: “Let them run.”
Then she and the rest of the team joined in. A group of law enforcement officers in full gear rounded out the pack.
After doing laps for about half an hour, the runners — many red-faced and sweaty — gathered to listen to members of the team speak about their coach and their experiences during the shooting that left 14 students and three teachers dead.
“These victims were our family, our friends, our loved ones, our classmates, our coaches. Yes, we need to change the law, but all I ask of you is that we make today a day of remembrance,” said Annagrace Myers, 16.
“This run was created to honor each and every one of those victims, especially our own Coach Beigel. A man who showed up at the very beginning of the school year without a single clue about cross country, yet had a huge impact on our team. He never taught us anything technical about the running or the training, but he taught us how to run with our hearts.”
Monique Miquel, 16, said the shooting at her school “was not fair, not understandable and was hardly fathomable.”
But she had a message for the world.
“This violence came to the wrong community,” she said. “And we will defeat it.”
Among those there: Beigel’s parents, Linda and Michael Schulman.
Linda Schulman said “there were no words” for the support shown to her and her family.
She made a promise to the community. “No matter what it takes, we are going to fix this,” she said referring to gun violence. “This is never going to go unfixed.”
Then she spoke on behalf of her son.
“Scott is so proud of everyone here,” she said. “Scott is so amazed by what he sees and Scott is going to watch over us and help us fix this.”
After the speeches came a final memorial lap and a balloon release — 17 white balloons were sent skyward in memory of the 17 lives taken too soon.
The run ended with a final huddle.
“One, two, three, Coach Beigel,” the team shouted.