Only last Saturday Jenny Taylor joined her teammates for what was to be her final track meet as captain of the Herndon High School team. As usual, she won several events.
The team is scheduled to compete again today, and some anticipate there will be a quiet moment when they call the 55-yard dash, the contest at which Jenny particularly excelled.
Jennifer Lynne Taylor, 17, of Great Falls was killed Monday afternoon when the pickup truck in which she was riding, driven by a childhood friend, Tamara Morgan Nash, smashed into another pickup truck in Gaithersburg. Nash, 17, of Gaithersburg, also was killed. The two girls, whose fathers are partners in the same law firm, were pronounced dead at the scene.
They buried Jenny Taylor yesterday under an oak tree on a piece of high ground at Chestnut Grove Cemetery that overlooks Herndon High School. Tammy Nash's parents were there, just one day after they attended their own daughter's funeral. So were more than 400 of Jenny's classmates -- a fifth of Herndon High School.
"If parents wished for a perfect kid," fellow drill team member Sue McAllister said, "she would be it."
Principal William E. Trussell flew the school flag at half-staff yesterday and called in extra counselors for students who wanted to talk about the death of the popular senior. Some cried in the hallways.
"I'm worried about some of these kids," he said. "This is the first time a lot of these kids have had something like this happen to a friend."
"It makes you realize that it could have been anybody, and it might have been you," Sue McAllister said. Tanya Markey, also a drill team member, said she can only conclude that God put Jenny Taylor on the planet so "everyone would want to be like her."
A district champion and winner of several relay medals, Jenny already had feelers from several colleges about track scholarships. "She was a champion in all senses of the word," said her coach, Jim Oliver. "A girl that gave everything she had."
Some afternoons, said Oliver, she would practice with the drill team for an hour and a half, and then run the track workout alone because the rest of the team had finished. "She might be here until 6 or 6:30 after school," Oliver said.
Nicknamed "Barbie" for her blond good looks, she had a few close girlfriends, many admirers and a longtime steady boyfriend, also an athlete. Trussell said he would kid the two of them that they were "hindering your energy level" by smooching in the hallway. Friends said the pair had "made plans."
Jenny Taylor was the kind of person you took your troubles to, Sue McAllister said. "She studied once in a while -- maybe not enough," joked her father, Michael Taylor.
Already, a scholarship fund has been set up in her name at Herndon High School, and an annual "athlete of the year" award is planned. The team hopes to place a small memorial and garden at the bend in the track where Jenny Taylor was handed the baton when she ran the 800-meter relay; she was the team's anchor for four years. Her classmates jammed the parlor at the brick funeral home with white pillars on Herndon's main street.
The Rev. John H. Carrier, pastor of the family's Forestville United Methodist Church, told those assembled that of all the causes of death to which we are vulnerable -- accident, disease and age -- it is accident that so discriminates against the young.
Carrier read Michael Taylor's reminiscence of his final run with his daughter last week, on which they saw a rabbit, a deer and a red bird fluttering from a bush. Some mourners, steadfast until then, cried.
Jenny Taylor was borne to the cemetery in a rose-colored bronze casket with brass ornamentation that sparkled when the sun struck it. Among the pallbearers were two from Herndon High School: track coach Oliver and Bryant Johnson, a member of the track team. Like others on the running squad, they wore white ribbons on their lapels to symbolize, Oliver said, that she was "first place in our hearts."
The graveside ceremony was brief: a few psalms, and then Carrier intoned: "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." A few teen-agers sobbed. Others hugged. Some walked over to the casket to place on it a single bloom: a red rose, a yellow daisy, a white carnation.
Michael Taylor said he, his wife, his two sons and a second daughter were happy to see so many friends of Jenny's at her funeral, and "it helped us, because we wound up consoling them."
"It's going to be a while before we forget her," Oliver said.