The Madison High School and surrounding Vienna community lost a vibrant, fun-loving and kind former student athlete last week when Khristin Kyllo, a freshmen student at Princeton University (N.J.), was found dead in her college dorm room on the morning of Jan. 13, apparently as a result of natural causes relating to her chronicled seizure problems.
Kyllo, who was 18, graduated from Madison High last spring. She was a popular classmate who had been a member of both the girls’ basketball team during the winter and softball team last spring.
Kyllo missed part of her senior softball season at Madison due to seizure problems she was enduring. She did, however, return to the line-up later in the season and was, as the team’s shortstop, instrumental in the Warhawks’ outstanding postseason in which they captured both the Liberty District and Northern Region championships.
“Khristin's loss has impacted Madison's softball community greatly,” said Madison head coach John Schneeberger. “She played hard each and every game and became a key part in the team's success last year in spite of her medical problems.”
A memorial service at Princeton is to be scheduled at a later date. However, Princeton’s Office of the Dean of Religious Life held a gathering the evening of Jan. 13 for those students and faculty who knew and loved Khristin. It was a time in which the first-year Princeton student was remembered fondly through those who wished to share memories of her.
In a message to the campus community, Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman, as reported on the NCAA website, said, "I know I speak for our entire University community when I extend my heartfelt sympathy to Khristin's family, friends and classmates. When faced with unexpected and untimely losses such as this, we must look to one another for strength and comfort, while reaching out to those whose grief is greatest. Let us also celebrate the many ways in which Khristin made our campus a better place to learn and live, as well as all that she accomplished in her short but vibrant life."
Services in Vienna, Va. will take place this weekend at Vienna Presbyterian Church.
A similar gathering to that at Princeton took place on the parking lot in the back of Madison High School last Friday evening, Jan. 14 when numerous students, faculty and members of Kyllo’s family came together for a candlelight vigil, organized by some of Kyllo’s close friends, which began at 6.
Several individuals spoke at the gathering, sharing their memories, some of which were quite funny, of times they had spent and experienced with Khristin.
“It’s definitely been hard, but we’re getting through it together,” said Sam Brady, a current Madison senior and star pitcher of the Warhawks’ softball team.
Brady was a Madison teammate of Kyllo’s for three varsity seasons and grew up playing the sport with and against Kyllo in Vienna.
“We felt a lot better after the candlelight vigil on Friday night,” said Brady. “It meant a lot to her family and so many people showed up.”
Following the outdoor vigil, the group moved indoors into the Madison High cafeteria to continue commemorating and celebrating the life of the beloved teenager who was no longer with them.
“Friends told great stories of her,” said Brady. “There were a lot of funny stories. It was a celebration of her life.”
Brady recalled how she and Kyllo would kid one another about perhaps one day meeting as college opponents on the softball diamond.
Brady has committed to attend Brown University which, like Princeton, is a member of the Ivy League.
“One of the last things I remember talking to her about was how she was so excited to [one day] play against me in college,” recalled Brady, earlier this week, with a giggle. “She always talked about how Princeton will kick [Brown’s] tail.”
People recalled, on Friday night, Kyllo’s love for various forms of music, such as rap and gospel.
“She loved a lot of music,” said Brady. “She was like a ball of energy and always so fun to be around.”
EmJ Fogel, a Madison High senior and catcher on the softball team, shared a special common bond with Kyllo – both shared the same birthday date of July 12. Khristin, one year older than Fogel, was born in 1992 while Fogel was born one year later in 1993.
“We had a joint birthday party one year at my house when I was turning 12,” recalled Fogel, who was on the same Vienna Youth Incorporated (VYI) house league girls’ softball team, the Bandits, as Kyllo when the two were ages 10 and 11, respectively. They were later teammates on the 12-under Vienna Stars travel team for one year. “It was one of the best birthdays I ever had. We had a singing contest that day, and we were dancing and acting out.
“We were always birthday buddies and would call each other up [on July 12] every year,” said Fogel, who next school year will be playing collegiate softball on scholarship at the University of Maine.
Fogel recalled a funny story prior to a Madison practice last spring when Kyllo, not able to play at that particular time due to her illness, was put on the spot in a fun way. Although she was not going to take part in the workout that day, Kyllo was still hanging out with the team. Prior to practice, coach Schneeberger informed his team they would not have to run laps if Kyllo could successfully answer the following question: If a Campbell with one hump and another Campbell with two humps have a baby, how many humps will that baby Campbell have?
Fogel recalls Kyllo thoughtfully thinking the interesting mind teaser in her mind before coming up with the following answer - one-and-a-half humps. That brought laughs from the players but it was not a good enough solution/answer to prevent the Warhawks from running that day.
“She tried to come up with an answer, but we still had to run,” recalled Fogel, with a laugh.
<b>KYLLO</b>, who would regularly eat a McDonald’s happy meal prior to games, was regarded as a fabulous teammate who displayed leadership qualities with her consistent hard play and the way in which she would regularly encourage her teammates.
“She was an amazing softball player and gave so much effort,” said Fogel. “Everyone who played with her or against her learned something from her. She was definitely an inspirational teammate. She’d go to every single team member before a game and tell them they were a good teammate and important to the team.”
Kyllo always dreamed about one day playing softball at Princeton (see related story on the web at Connectionnewspapers.com, at Vienna sports).
“Her goal always was to attend Princeton University,” said Schneeberger. “Softball was her vehicle to get there and to be able to play for Princeton was an added accomplishment for her.”
Kyllo, loved by many, will be sorely missed.
“The entire Madison community is upset with her loss,” said Schneeberger. “It will take some time for everyone to get over all of this.”