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Slain University of Tampa runner Ryan McCall lives on through memorial scholarship

Ryan McCall received his UT diploma posthumously. His scholarship fund sent two students to college with $1,200.

Courtesy of McCall family

Ryan McCall received his UT diploma posthumously. His scholarship fund sent two students to college with $1,200.

TAMPA — Somewhere on a college campus, a young man is running.

He's thinking about classes, friends, his future. He pictures himself graduating. Maybe having a family some day. Maybe becoming a high school track coach.

If things went differently the night of Aug. 18, 2009, we might be talking about Ryan McCall. Instead, we're talking about Jonathon Bermudez, one of the first two recipients of the Ryan McCall Memorial scholarship.

Bermudez never met McCall, but he's heard his story in running circles: A University of Tampa track star, McCall, 21, was shot dead as he walked home that night, robbed of the few dollars in his pocket and left at the base of the N Boulevard bridge.

Bermudez now shares a bond with the slain student, thanks to an extra $1,200 from McCall's family to help him start his freshman year at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

"It really hits home," Bermudez said, "like, we're in the same shoes."

• • •

Days went by. Then weeks. Then months. More than a year after McCall's death, his parents still had no closure. No arrests had been made.

So they decided to organize a memorial run in March in their son's name — partly because they thought the publicity might encourage people to call the police with tips, but also because staying busy took their minds off the crime.

Proceeds would fund a scholarship for a local high school track or cross country runner. The event's T-shirt included a silhouette of McCall passing a baton.

"It came out of something bad, but you know, at least Ryan is still out there," said his dad, Kevin McCall. "Each kid that gets these awards, it's something they're going to carry with them."

• • •

After the race, the McCall family ended up with enough money to give two scholarships of $1,200 each. Kevin McCall and his other son, Kevin Jr., independently picked their favorites out of the seven who applied.

They each chose the same students: Bermudez, a Sickles High School runner who wants to become a cardiologist; and Ashley McBride, a King High School student planning to study journalism at the University of Miami.

Both headed to school last month, using the scholarship money to help buy supplies and books. Both plan to join their school's track teams as walk-ons.

"I want to carry on his legacy," McBride said of McCall. "And make sure people have heard his story."

It's a story that reminds her of another tragedy, the death of her King High track teammate Calyx Schenecker, who was killed along with her brother in a highly publicized murder earlier this year. McBride wrote about it in her scholarship essay, and how she now tries to appreciate her life every day.

"I will ensure that I have not been given this scholarship in vain," she wrote to Ryan's parents.

Bermudez said Ryan's story makes him want to get the most out of college and not take anything for granted.

"I feel very honored to be chosen," he said. "It means a lot."

Both impressed the McCalls with the way they described wanting to give back to the world. They also talked about lessons they've learned from running — the value of working toward a goal, and how even bad days often lead to good ones.

It sounded a lot like what Ryan might say.

Reach Kim Wilmath at kwilmath@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Learn more

To find out more about the memorial run and scholarship, visit ryanpmccall.com.

Slain University of Tampa runner Ryan McCall lives on through memorial scholarship 09/25/11 [Last modified: Monday, September 26, 2011 7:11pm]

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