NOCONA (KFDX/KJTL) — Many communities are grieving after a van crash near Lubbock claimed the lives of nine, injuring two more.
Among those killed was Texoma’s own Laci Stone, a 2021 graduate of Nocona High School.
“She’d always be so happy, she would always have a smile on her face no matter what and whether you wanted to smile or not she was going to make you smile,” Laci’s friend Stephany Gutierrez said.
That’s how everyone who knew and loved Laci describes her, less than 24 hours after the freshman University of the Southwest student and golfer died in the crash between her college sports team’s van and a pickup truck.
“She would never be the person on the court to bring you down, she would always bring you back up, she would never say something bad, she would bring the court to life,” Laci’s friend Ava Storey said.
Laci’s long-time friend Logan Patterson agreed.
“I went to pre-school with her and we’ve just been friends ever since then and she was just the best person ever,” Patterson said.
Not only was Laci a friend Patterson, Gutierrez and Storey could depend on, her former basketball coach Kyle Spitzer said she was an exemplary student and athlete.
Laci was heavily involved in many sports.
“She was a good pitcher in softball and she was a good post in basketball, she did everything,” Spitzer said.”She was somebody in our athletic program that we were really proud of she modeled that student-athlete that everybody was looking for.”
A golf scholarship ultimately secured her a spot at the USW.
“A life taken way too soon, she had big-time dreams and aspirations and it’s really hard for me to come to grips that she won’t be able to live out some of those dreams but she leaves a very positive legacy behind her,” Colby Schniederjan golf coach.
Schniederjan, Laci’s former golf coach of three years at Nocona High School who kept in touch with her at USW describes her as hardworking, determined and committed.
“She was very mentally tough, she was just able to take it all in strides and always very optimistic and always looking for the next right play and always bettering herself,” Schniederjan said. “This horrific accident has actually been pretty devastating loss and situation, to say the least, to see her doing all the things that she wanted to do at a high level and that being just crushed is really hard.”
Now, with only memories of her to get them through this devastating loss, Patterson said they will carry the lessons she taught them with them for the rest of their lives.
“To always look on the bright side of things, she always looked at the better part of people,” Patterson said.
“To be different, she always was on the quirkier side of things and she always did things a different style of way and it was very likable,” Storey said.
And as everyone tries to come to terms with this unexpected loss, Spitzer encourages students to cherish every moment they had with Laci and not to take anything for granted.
It states in her sports profile on the USW website that Laci’s favorite sports memory was all the bus rides. Spitzer said she always sang on the bus; she was the life of the party.