University of Wisconsin track star Sarah Shulze dies at 21 

Shulze’s family said the athlete died by suicide after “balancing athletics, academics and the demands of every day life overwhelmed her in a single, desperate moment.”

April 25, 2022, 4:55 AM CDT / Updated April 25, 2022, 5:53 AM CDT

By Chantal Da Silva for NBC news

A student-athlete from the University of Wisconsin-Madison died by suicide, her family said.

Sarah Shulze, a star runner on the women’s track and field and cross-country teams at the university, died this month at age 21.

In a statement posted April 15 to a website dedicated to her life, her family said she had died just two days before, on April 13.

“Sarah took her own life,” the statement said. “Balancing athletics, academics and the demands of every day life overwhelmed her in a single, desperate moment.”

Her family said they had been left “shocked and grief stricken” by Shulze’s death. “Above all other things, Sarah was a power for good in the world,” they said. 

In a separate statement posted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Badgers Twitter account, the school said its athletics community had been left “heartbroken” by Shulze’s passing.

“Sarah was a beloved daughter, sister, granddaughter, friend, teammate and Badger student-athlete,” the school said. “We extend our deepest sympathies and sincere condolences to Sarah’s family, friends and Badger teammates during this extraordinarily difficult time.”

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students, according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. In 2020, it was among the top nine leading causes of death for people ages 10 to 64 and was the second-leading cause of death for people 10 to 14 and 25 to 34, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Just last month, the parents of the star goalkeeper on Stanford University’s women’s soccer team announced that their daughter, Katie Meyer, had died by suicide. 

Meyer, 22, was from Newbury Park, California, and had been studying as an international relations major and history minor.

In an interview with NBC’s “TODAY” show, Meyer’s mother, Gina, said there had been “no red flags” prior to her daughter’s death. “She was excited. She had a lot on her plate. She had a lot going on. But she was, she was happy. She was in great spirits,” she said.

She had initially made her mark as an athlete in high school, competing in national and state level events, her family said.

They said she had received a scholarship to race for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which was “an ongoing source of pride for Sarah as she entered her third season with the team.”

Shulze’s family said she was also a member of the student-athlete council and had interned at the Wisconsin state Legislature. She had also volunteered as a poll worker for the 2020 presidential election. “These experiences helped develop her deep love for politics, social causes and women’s rights,” they said.

“Sarah regarded herself as a champion for all women, as did the many family members, friends, students and athletes who surrounded her,” they said.

In the wake of her death, Shulze’s family has set up the Sarah Shulze Foundation, which they said would help other student-athletes and support a number of causes she was passionate about, including women’s rights and mental health.

Shulze’s family said a service would be held in Westlake Village, California, on May 2.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

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