Finishing strong

Allegheny runners rally in honor of Eliza Fletcher

Runners begin the second of two laps in memory of Eliza Fletcher, 34, a Memphis teacher who was kidnapped and killed while on a run in the early hours of Friday, Sept. 2.

As Allegheny’s cross country squad finished up their stretches on the track at Frank B. Fuhrer Field Monday afternoon, they were joined by members of Allegheny’s field hockey team, the men’s soccer team, and the broader college community. The near 100-strong crowd was on the oval for a single goal: finish the final run of Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher.
Fletcher, 34, was kidnapped and murdered in the early morning of Friday, Sept. 2, while on a run on the University of Memphis campus. Cleotha Henderson, 38, has since been arrested and charged for her killing. With their two laps, Allegheny’s runners joined thousands of other runners across the country who organized similar events in Fletcher’s honor using the tag #finishelizasrun.
For Mazzie Standish, ’25, a distance runner with Allegheny’s cross country team, the news of Fletcher’s murder reminded her of circumstances she and her teammates have seen on their own runs.
“It low-key really hit home for a lot of us,” Standish said. “We encounter so many small situations like that and it just really sucks to hear about an actual situation that turned really horrible. It definitely makes you think and stop for a good second because you’re like, ‘Damn, I do this, like, all the time.’”
Head Cross Country Coach Ben Mourer, ’07, said that he sat both the men’s and the women’s team down to talk about the news.
“I told the guys, ‘hey, recognize the privilege that men really have in the situation here,’” Mourer said. “We think it’s totally bogus that we have to talk about the safety of one group totally differently than we do the other, but that is the situation.”
Allegheny’s iteration of “Finish Eliza’s Run” was the brainchild of Assistant Field Hockey Coach Leah Romanowski.
“I saw the hashtag trending on social media and I was literally running on the treadmill,” Romanowski said. “It dawned upon me: that would be a really great way to show our support and raise awareness about what happened on campus if we came together and did something like we did today.”
After having the idea on Thursday, Romanowski wrote to Athletic Director Bill Ross for approval. Romanowski also looped Mourer and his staff in on plans. Flyers started appearing not long after, and a My Allegheny post went up on Friday. While many of the participants on Monday were members of the field hockey and cross country teams — attending with their respective coaches — many others were not.
“I honestly didn’t expect anybody outside of the team to come to this,” Standish said. “I think it’s really dope that a lot of people did come and just, you know, even walked to show any kind of support.”
“Whoever was able to see it was able to see it, but I am thrilled about the outcome,” Romanowski said. “The people who wanted to show support absolutely came and showed their support.”
Graham Kralic, ’25, a defender with the men’s soccer team, saw flyers on social media over the weekend and was encouraged to attend with other members of his team.
“Our coach texted us earlier today and said, ‘Hey, if some of you guys can come out today and support this, it looks like a good cause,’” Kralic said.
Kralic added that it was nice to see the community come out in support of its members.
“People want to support each other when a tragedy like this happens,” Kralic said. “Everybody has a mother, sister, girlfriend, wife, whatever it may be, and you can feel for that and be empathetic for that. It hurts when something like this happens because it shouldn’t happen, it’s a needless act.”
All told, the event lasted just a quarter of an hour. Prior to the run, Romanowski offered some safety tips for running alone — carry a defensive weapon, switch up the route and be aware of people and surroundings. However, Standish was wary of placing the onus of being safe on the potential victims instead of pushing potential perpetrators to be better.
“I understand that we’re at a point where you don’t want to offend anybody and it’s weird to talk to a men’s group mixed with a women’s group because you don’t want to — but just like, God, I shouldn’t be blamed for getting attacked on a run, you know?” Standish said. “It’s like if she would have fought, then maybe she wouldn’t have died, but that’s just not the case … I don’t blame anybody for that message that got across, you know, that’s just kind of the normal spiel happens now: ‘Just protect yourself.’”
Standish also hoped that raising awareness of deadly attacks would change the perspective of people skeptical that such incidents happen regularly or that women feel unsafe while out alone.
“Maybe getting them to see like, dude this happens and it (makes) us (paranoid), we have to think about it all the time.” Standish said. “Maybe just showing that in any little way definitely gets the message across more and may help.”