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UPDATE: Saugus High senior killed by car

17-year-old swim team manager described as being ‘always about the team’

Posted: August 19, 2014 9:39 a.m.
Updated: August 19, 2014 5:03 p.m.
Jennifer Stift was a Saugus High School student and team manager for the Saugus High girls swim team.  Jennifer Stift was a Saugus High School student and team manager for the Saugus High girls swim team. 
Jennifer Stift was a Saugus High School student and team manager for the Saugus High girls swim team. 

A 17-year-old girl who became the heart and spirit of the Saugus girls swim team has died after she was hit by a car while jogging, law enforcement and school officials said Tuesday.

Jennifer Stift, a senior at Saugus High School, died as a result of injuries suffered in the collision around 8:30 p.m. Monday, said Officer John Lutz of the California Highway Patrol.

She was pronounced dead at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital about 9 p.m. Monday, he said in a collision report issued Tuesday.

“We took her on as a team manager and she was at every swim meet, cheering everyone on because she was always about the team,” said Victoriana Donnelly, coach of the Saugus girls swim team.

“She was such an outgoing individual,” Donnelly said on the phone from Oregon, holding back tears.

“She was always smiling. She was the first person to arrive for practice and the first person to say ‘Hi’ to me,” she said. “If I was having a bad day she would make one of her weird faces and, immediately, lighten the mood.

“Her attitude was: ‘We’re here; let’s make the most of the day,’” Donnelly said.

Hit by car
Stift was apparently jogging across Golden Valley Road at Samantha Court in Saugus around 8:30 p.m. when she was hit by a car driven by a 17-year-old Santa Clarita resident. The minor’s name was not released.

He was driving a 1989 Toyota Celica, according to the CHP collision report.

Neither alcohol nor drugs was believed to be a factor in the collision, the report said.

Grief counselors were on hand at Saugus High School on Tuesday morning for students who needed to talk about Stift’s death, said Gail Pinsker, spokeswoman for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

“There is grief counseling under way since before school started today, and (it) will be available for as long as any students need,” she said Tuesday.

“The Saugus High School family, along with the entire Hart school district, is saddened by this news,” Pinsker said. “Our hearts and thoughts go out to Jennifer’s family and friends.”

Stift underwent hip surgery last year, said Donnelly, who added she received back-to-back phone calls from crying members of the 90-member swim team Tuesday morning.

“After her hip surgery she was a lot fitter,” the coach said, “and she was out there trying to maintain that healthy lifestyle.”

Notes of condolence from scores of friends were posted on various Facebook pages and other social media.

One note, apparently from Stift’s fellow Saugus High Class of 2015 students, reads: “Our deepest condolences go out to the friends and family of the beautiful Jennifer Stift, the girl whose smile could light up a room.”

Saugus High Principal Bill Bolde sent a message of condolence to parents Tuesday morning.

“It hurts and there’s no easy way to deal with the pain,” he wrote. “If needed, students have been encouraged to meet in small groups or individually with counselors to process their emotions. ...We know that it may take time to heal this deep wound.

“We also call on all parents to engage in a conversation on the home front about today’s events. Talk to your kids about their thoughts and feelings. Allow them to release any emotions that may be harbored deep within,” Bolde wrote.

Stift was one of five daughters of Monica and Michael Stift of Saugus. Her sisters include Samantha, Katie, Becky and Michelle, who was on the Saugus girls swim team.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt





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