Kentucky cheerleader dies after falling ill at competition

A Kentucky community is mourning the sudden death of an eighth-grade student who complained of feeling ill while at a cheerleading competition in Ohio on Saturday. Lilliana Schalck, a student at Highlands Middle School in Fort Thomas, was taken from the event to a nearby hospital by her father, but her condition quickly deteriorated and she later died, according to the school’s athletic director.

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Schalck was an active cheerleader on both her school’s team and with Premier Athletics NKY, the team she was competing with before the tragedy. The event’s organizers held a moment of silence for her when the news spread, WCPO reported.

Several vigils in the cheer community as well as within the Fort Thomas School District have been held in her honor, with many athletes donning blue hearts in a show of support. A tweet and Facebook post sent out to parents and students by the school’s superintendent did not reveal what the teen’s cause of death was, but described her as “beloved by so many.”

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“Tonight one of the kids during our vigil was saying how Lilliana was one of the first people in the lobby, greeting people,” Michael Howton, the teen’s principal told Fox 19. “She didn’t know what they’d do without her. I said do what she did — be there and show that support to others.”

Howton told another news outlet that he wanted students to know that it’s “alright to grieve.”

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“I think that’s the message we want to send kids,” he told WCPO. “It’s alright to have that moment of sadness and recognize that you miss your friend, you miss this person that was in our halls every day.”

The school said counselors would be available for students this week.