The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Cross country raises over $8,000 after belongings are stolen in California

4 min read

Cross country runners in front of the car that was broken into. | @umw_xctf / Instagram


Staff Writer

Tragedy struck the UMW cross country team this past week while visiting San Francisco, Calif. for their Coast-to-Coast (C2C) Championships on Oct. 28. The team had six bags taken from one van that left five of the team’s runners without gear for the upcoming race. A GoFundMe page for the team has raised over $8,000 dollars to replace the stolen items, including the runners’ personal IDs, running gear, laptops, house keys and other personal necessities. 

“I burst into tears—all of us were pretty upset,” said senior Amber Zipfel, an English major with a creative writing concentration, whose belongings were stolen. “In that situation I had thought about the big things I lost, but as the days went on, it just hit me that … this custom keychain that I made for my boyfriend and I [was] gone. These little things are gone.”

After a five-hour flight to San Francisco, the cross country team was in high spirits to tackle the long weekend of competition. On their way to the hotel, the team decided to take a pit stop at one of San Francisco’s landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge. 

“The view was awesome and we took a lot of great pictures and we explored around a bit,” said senior sociology major and runner Cameron Delean. “Literally minutes later we looked over to see all of the windows of our rental van smashed and when we ran down to check on it, our things were gone.”

Julia Kapp, a sophomore business administration major, also had her belongings stolen.

“When we saw what happened, we were all in shock because important stuff was in there like our laptops, wallets, running clothes and shoes, etc.,” she said. “It really sucked and we were all upset, but we had to make a lot of phone calls to our banks to cancel debit/credit cards, our parents, our coaches, the school and people close to us for comfort.”

While they were waiting for a replacement van, the team stayed on the bridge for two hours, and Zipfel screamed in frustration.

“I could scream on the bridge so no one would hear me because I just can’t believe it happened,” she said.

Following the incident, the team contacted the park service. Park rangers instructed them to file a report with the San Francisco Police Department, who instructed the team to go back and file a report with the park service.  

“The authorities on sight were kind of helpful, but since then it has gone a little bit downhill,” said Kunle Lawson, head coach of the cross country team. “We’re getting the run around from the authorities. This is something that happens all of the time apparently. People that break into cars target cars with out-of-state plates.”

The team had three rental vans, two of which had California license plates and were not robbed. The van that was broken into had out-of-state license plates. 

Eventually, a local resident contacted the team through Facebook, saying that some of the team’s emptied backpacks were in their front yard, including Zipfel’s.

“I got my journals back, but they took some little weird things,” she said. “They took my hairbrush, my colorful pens, my toiletries bag … I had to pay for my retainer just now and that was $300, so that was fantastic. 

According to Kapp, the GoFundMe was initially set at $5,000 because five runners lost laptops roughly valued at $1,000. Once that goal was met, they raised the goal to $7,000. At the time of publication, the GoFundMe has raised $8,145. 

“Just seeing everyone contribute and help out lifted our spirits and made the situation a little better even though we did lose a lot of expensive and sentimental items,” said Kapp.

The boyfriend of Kenzie Lloyd, one of the runners, started the GoFundMe page.

“It was a blessing that Kenzie Lloyd’s boyfriend created that GoFundMe page,” said Zipfel. “It shows that there are evils in the world from this experience, but there’s also a lot of good, and there’s kind people. The generosity of people is just amazing.”

A Runner’s Mind, the running store based in California, ended up supplying all of the team’s stolen gear. 

“One of the girls on the team works for a running store up in [Northern Virginia], and the owner of her store called an owner of a store here locally,” said Lawson. “They were able to help us outfit the kids that didn’t have shoes and spikes for that day. They did a really good job taking care of us.”

After receiving several donations and a local resupply from the store, the team was finally ready to get back into action at the Coast-to-Coast Championships. The team competed against teams such as CNU, UC Santa Cruz, Salisbury University and Pratt University.

The men’s cross country team ended up placing fourth in an 8K course with 89 points.  

For the men’s team, notable performances included a ninth-place finish from junior political science major Patrick Brown, senior physics major Matt O’Cadiz finished 22nd, followed by senior communication and digital studies major Justin Libman in 23rd place, junior communication and digital studies major Nicholas Onorato finished 25th, and senior biochemistry major Brandon Baumgartner took 26th.

The women’s team placed fourth with 101 points overall. Delean finished 17th, junior psychology major Grace Pippin placed 21st and senior interdisciplinary science studies major Kenzie Lloyd finished 31st.

UMW will compete next at the NCAA Southwest Regional on Nov. 13. 

“I think for our Regional meet we will be in good shape. Despite the C2C scoring of C2C, we all ran really well so I think we’ve shown that we have a lot more to give on the course,” said Onorato.

Jess Kirby contributed to reporting for this article.