Luis Manuel Reyes Mon had to be smiling from the heavens Friday.
“Live life with a kick,” best described Manuel, not only because his kick was the best part of his race when he ran cross country and track, but he did everything with passion.
Manuel always smiled when he was with his classmates and teammates at Windsor High School. Those same students came together Friday and paid tribute to Manuel, who died Jan. 18, 2012, at the age of 17 in a car crash on Colo. 257 when he was driving to school.
The student council honored Manuel, who would have been a senior this year, by organizing Manuel’s Relay on the high school track.
It was only fitting that the sun shined brightly and the weather warmed up on the one-year anniversary of Manuel’s death.
“It was supposed to be snowing, and so I think it’s him smiling because he was always smiling,” said Taryn Melendez, a junior who came up with the idea to honor Manuel. “I think it’s his way of saying he’s here right now with us. Even when he would be running, he would breathe through his nose so he could smile while he was running.”
Taryn, 16, who ran cross country with Manuel and is a member of the student council, and student council co-president Hannah West, 17, a senior who also was Manuel’s teammate and who spoke at his funeral, laughed as they told stories about Manuel.
“The biggest thing about Manuel in cross country is that he was like our team cheerleader,” Hannah said. “He was really good at pushing everyone. He was always the guy that would go the extra mile for anybody. He always had a positive attitude, and I think that was just the biggest thing that people remember about him. He was always smiling, and he would help everybody out.”
A member of the Knowledge Bowl and National Honor Society, Manuel was extremely popular even though he was a student at WHS for only a year and a half. To celebrate his life, students and teachers walked around the track throughout the day.
“We originally planned it for last spring, but we got rained out,” said student council adviser Karen Aschliman.
The student council raised money by selling T-shirts created by Manuel’s close friend, Alejandro Mendoza. There is a silhouette of Manuel running on the T-shirt with the “Live life with a kick,” saying that cross country coach Ross Wilbur made up.
The student council also sold raffle tickets with prizes donated by various Windsor businesses. The money raised will be used for a scholarship in Manuel’s name. The student council also purchased a bench with a name plate honoring Manuel that will sit outside the weight room, just off the track. There are still some T-shirts left at $5 apiece, and monetary donations also are being accepted. Anyone interested in a T-shirt or donating money to the scholarship fund can call Aschliman at (970) 686-8100, Ext. 3636.
“It’s celebrating his life and showing the kids that we are a family here at Windsor High School, and we’ll do this together and we’ll get through this together,” Aschliman said. “Revisiting this and celebrating him and remembering him also shows them that life is short and anything can happen.”
Hannah said she looks at Manuel’s death one of two ways.
“You can look at it that he’s gone, and you can be depressed about it, and just constantly be upset about it,” Hannah said. “I know that’s how everyone was at first, but I think a lot of us have moved on from that and now a lot of people are looking at it as just trying to let him live through us and let him live through our actions. A lot of people have learned from him, and he inspired a lot of people. Everyone’s just trying to be happier more, showing more leadership and having a better work ethic. That’s kind of what he taught us.”