A somber image -- a flag flying at half-staff -- presided over Friday night's Class 5A, District 9 tournament at King's Bill Stewart Stadium.
Hours earlier, the campus was blanketed in raw grief as word spread that King sophomore Calyx Powers Schenecker, an engaging 16-year-old with a promising future as a Lions distance runner, had been murdered with her 13-year-old brother in her New Tampa home.
The children's mother, Julie Powers Schenecker, has confessed to the murders, police said.
"She was a bright star," Lions cross country coach Gary Bingham said by phone Friday evening while perusing old team photos. "Her demeanor was always to have fun, stay in the moment and enjoy yourself."
A Lions runner the past two years, Calyx helped lead King to a runner-up finish at the 3A, Region 2 meet and a team berth in the state championships, where she placed in the top 150. Until the emergence of ninth-grader Sarah Otteson this past fall, Bingham said Calyx had been the fastest freshman he had ever coached.
On Friday, he described Calyx as "bubbly" and "outgoing," adding he often would catch her at practice fiddling with blades of grass or small bugs. Barrett Zebos, media center specialist at King, said Calyx was a member of the school's Reading Rocks Million Words Club -- a reading comprehension program -- and was set to help plan the club picnic in May.
"I never had any problems with her," Bingham said. "It was devastating to the people who weren't even close to her."
Bingham said word of Calyx's death spread so quickly, mainly through text messages, he wasn't able to gather his team members to inform them as a group. He said by the end of the school day Friday, "they had to be carpooled home because they couldn't drive."
Calyx's father, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, was overseas when notifed his wife had killed their children. Bingham said Calyx's mom was "around (the cross country team) some, but not near as much as her dad was."