Student-Athletes Receive Gift as Reminder to ‘Finish the Race’

October 11, 2017 at 9:29 am

Members of Upstate SAAC fold letters from Laurie Lee to insert in each copy of the book.

Spartan athletes received a special gift recently when each University of South Carolina Upstate student-athlete was presented with his or her own copy of a book celebrating the life of Josh Lee, one of four Spartans killed in 2015.

About 250 copies of 2004 graduate Laurie Lee’s “Just Finish the Race: A Testimony of a Mother’s Love to Finish Her Son’s Race,” were distributed to USC Upstate student-athletes at the beginning of October, according to Caleb Poore, administrative assistant in the Athletics Department. The books were donated by Dr. Tommy Leong and his wife Susan.

“Just Finish the Race” is both a tribute to Laurie and Johnny Lee’s son Josh, and an account of Laurie Lee’s journey through the grief of losing her son.

Josh Lee was 20 years old when he and three other USC Upstate student-athletes lost their lives in a single-car wreck in the early-morning hours of Oct. 11, 2015. The other victims were Horace Miller “Mills” Sproull IV, 20, of Birmingham, Alabama; James Robert Campbell, 21, of Greenville; and Sarah Grace Vande Berg, 21, of Zephyrhills, Florida. Felicia Ahlborg of Sweden, the fifth student-athlete in the car, was the only survivor.

Susan Leong said the two families have known each other since shortly after the Leongs moved to the area. When she read “Just Finish the Race,” Susan Leong said she felt it was an important story for all the student-athletes to be aware of.

“We were heart-broken when we heard about the loss of [the Lees’] son, and then when I read the book I cried so much,” Susan Leong said recently. “I said ‘I think every USC Upstate athlete should have a copy of this book because [Josh] was such a part of their lives.’ All those athletes that died — and Felicia, who survived — I feel like they’re always going to be connected in some way. Even in the sadness, I feel like that book shows us a good way to live, because [the Lees] have such a strong faith, and because their son was such an inspiration to so many people.”

Julio Freire, USC Upstate athletics director and vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics, acknowledged the gift and expressed his appreciation for the Leongs’ continued support. Dr. Leong, an orthopedic surgeon in Spartanburg, is one of the University’s team physicians.

“Susan and Dr. Leong are such an important part of the USC Upstate student-athlete experience,” Freire said. “We are thankful for their continuous support. The books that they have provided for each of our student-athletes will indeed help carry the legacy forward.”

Susan Leong said both she and her husband hoped the book would help current student-athletes understand how precious life is.

“The more that book is circulated the better, because it may prevent something like that from happening again,” she said. “It just makes it so real. You just feel what that family went through.”