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Vigil Planned For Cross Country Runner Fatally Struck By Car

Patrick Mizwicki

Patrick Mizwicki, a Lincolnway East High School cross country runner died last night after being hit by a car while running in a Cook County forest preserve near Swallow Cliff Woods. (Supplied photo)

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FRANKFORT, Ill. (STMW) – Students will be gathering with heavy hearts at Lincoln-Way East High School as they remember their friend and classmate Patrick Mizwicki with a candlelight vigil at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

Students are planning to gather near the track around the football field, a track where Mizwicki may have been running often next spring.

Mizwicki, 14, of New Lenox Township, died Thursday after he was struck by a car while practicing with his cross-country teammates on a Cook County Forest Preserve District trail that crosses 104th Avenue in Palos Township.

Mizwicki was struck by a car and later died at Palos Community Hospital in Palos Heights.

Sunday night’s vigil follows a similar tribute Friday night.

Players and families of the Frankfort Eagles, a travel baseball team he played with for five seasons, gathered at the home of manager Mark Zelenika to share their memories about Mizwicki.

“Obviously, people mourn in their own way. It’s just something we decided to do to get the family of the Eagles together, to talk about Pat, talk about his life, and to celebrate that,” Eagles coach Tom Carli said.

Carli wasn’t sure if Mizwicki planned to try out for Lincoln-Way East’s freshman baseball team but said he would have had a good shot at making the team.

“(He was) smaller in statutre, but had a big heart. (He was a) good hitter for our ball club. Very good bat control. He could always lay down a bunt when we needed one and did whatever we asked of him,” Carli said. “He was a very coachable kid, a very good kid, very much loved by his teammates. He was the kid you wanted to have on your team.”

Carli’s wife, Jen, said the Eagles players wore their blue jerseys to school Friday to show their support.

“If any silver lining can come out of this, it’s probably the cohesiveness, that the kids have come together. They’re rallying behind the Mizwicki family like crazy,” Jen Carli said.

She said it make take a long time to cope with Mizwicki’s passing.

“It’s not going to come day by day. You don’t get over it. It’s going to take weeks, months, years,” she said.

In the meantime, Tom Carli said it’s important for parents to make themselves available to their children to talk about their feelings.

Zelenika smiled when he thought of Mizwicki’s last game with the Eagles. They won a tournament in Tinley Park in July, and there’s a photo of Mizwicki kissing the trophy which Zelenika’s son, Ryan, posted on his Facebook page.

“If you look back and think of how you want to grow up, Patrick would be the epitome of what you think. A kid who’s a good athlete, a good student and great young kid who has a lot of fun. He never got into trouble,” Zelenika said.

“I’ve coached for 13 years and he’s the most polite young man I’ve ever coached. Patrick would be ‘yes, coach’ or ‘no, coach.’ It’s a big loss for everybody because he was going on to do something (big) some day. He was that kind of kid,” Zelenika said.

Ryan Zelenika, 15, also a Lincoln-Way East freshman, played on the Eagles with Mizwicki.

“He was always positive about everything. If we were ever down, he was the one to bring us up. I remember a game this year when he hit a two-run double that got us going and helped us win the game. It was a great thing,” Ryan said.

Jason Carli called Mizwicki “strong-willed and really religious.”

Jen Carli laughed at that, saying Mizwicki’s mom, JoAnne, “would never let him miss church.” Patrick Mizwicki was the youngest of eight children.

Mizwicki was running east on a horse trail through Teason Woods when he stopped to allow a southbound vehicle to pass.

He then attempted to cross 104th Avenue, but his view of an oncoming northbound 2007 Nissan Altima was blocked by a passing southbound car. The driver of the Nissan hit her brakes but was unable to avoid hitting Mizwicki, according to police.

The driver, who remained at the scene and cooperated fully, was issued minor citations for failure to yield at a crosswalk and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. No further charges are pending.

Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Monday at Kurtz Memorial Chapel, 65 Old Frankfort Way, Frankfort. A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Anthony Catholic Church, 7659 Sauk Trail, Frankfort.

Burial will be at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside.