Wootton remembers Robert Yin, who died from injuries he suffered while pole vaulting for Grinnell College

Robert Yin, who died from injuries sustained while pole vaulting for Grinnell.
Robert Yin, who died from injuries sustained while pole vaulting for Grinnell.
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By Carl Little
Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dozens of students, alumni and coaches from Wootton High School gathered in the infield at the 4A West region track and field championships on Wednesday to remember Robert Yin, a 2008 Wootton graduate who died Monday from injuries sustained last week during a pole vault competition. Yin was a sophomore at Grinnell College in Iowa.

Before the meet started in Bethesda, Wootton Coach Kelli Redmond read a prepared statement. Her voice broke as her athletes sobbed next to her. Emotions ran so high that Redmond passed the microphone to assistant coach Steve Orders. Yin embodied "what it means to give the very best of ourselves to a sport and to a life that deserves no less," he read. A moment of silence was then observed.

"I hope I never have to do this again," Redmond said.

Yin, a sprinter and jumper while at Wootton, picked up pole vaulting when he arrived at Grinnell. He fell on Friday at the Midwest Conference Championships at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Ill. Peggy Brooks, an assistant coach at Illinois College, told the State-Journal Register that, after an awkward vault, Yin "kind of slid, grazed the mat and landed on his back." She said that wind and weather were not factors.

A campus gathering was held earlier this week at Grinnell, where Yin, a music major, was remembered with a song by the G-Tones, the all-male a cappella group of which he was a member, and a candle vigil.

Wootton athletes -- and athletes who knew Yin from other schools -- tied black ribbons with Yin's initials on them to their shoes on Wednesday. Some wore arm paint that said "run for Robert."

An outpouring of remembrances is posted on the Facebook group Rest In Peace Robert. One post came from a stranger who lost her son in a pole vaulting accident. Another comment read: "I didn't even know your name. . . . But you just sat with me as I cried my heart out. I don't think you ever knew that you saved my life."

Wootton senior Brian Campos, a team captain, said it was tough to be sad when Yin was around.

"His optimism was contagious," Campos said. "He's somebody I looked up to as a sophomore; I wanted to fill his shoes."

Yin's funeral will be May 29 at Christ Episcopal Church in Rockville.

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