March 7, 2013

Former Lady Indian defined by optimism

During Angelina Rosales Gaspar’s senior season, Murray County High School’s girls soccer team lost each game.

But in the competition between losses and smiles in the memories of coaches and teammates, the smiles always win.

Angelina, a 2012 Murray County graduate and Chatsworth resident, died unexpectedly this past Thursday. She was 19.

In the wake of her death, some of those who knew her from the soccer field remembered things other than the tragedy, however. They talked of her work ethic, team-first attitude and positive outlook that shined the most when things weren’t so great on the scoreboard.

“One thing she said on the field was ‘Even if we lost, as long as we tried and had fun, that’s all that matters,’” said Elizabeth Lara, a current Lady Indian who played with Angelina for three seasons. “She was always smiling and she always had her thumbs up.”

Murray County soccer coach Mandy Ledford said Angelina was a native of Chatsworth, attended Chatsworth Elementary School and Gladden Middle School and then joined the Lady Indians’ soccer team her freshman year.

Despite a winless 2012 season, Angelina’s dedication and high spirits never wavered.

“Just an amazing work ethic,” Ledford said. “She was the type who would go all out and be a team player.”

Ledford doesn’t remember Angelina scoring a goal, making an assist or finding a way into the stat sheet. That wasn’t unusual considering she mostly played midfield and defense and wasn’t a regular starter. But that pales in comparison to the positive effect she had on those she interacted with.

“She got along with everyone,” Lara said. “She was one of those people who you couldn’t be mad at.”

Last season, as Ledford tried to find possible solutions through lineup changes — and dealt with injuries — she relied on players going where they were needed most. Angelina never complained.

“We tried to hard to figure out the best lineup for us and it changed due to injury. But she was always the one you could count on,” Ledford said. “She also would play defense from time to time. She was one of the players who, when we needed her to, would play anywhere.

“It’s funny. She’s one of those ladies who I never remember hearing complain about anyone or anything. ... She was just happy-go-lucky.”

Angelina was a freshman at Young Harris College, where she was majoring in art. She was part of Murray County’s spring musical, “Aladdin,” as a senior.

She also joined the high school’s cross country team that year. Ledford, an assistant coach for that program, helped convince her to take up the sport for the first time.

“I said, ‘I think you would enjoy it and make a difference,’” Ledford recalled.

Even if Angelina wasn’t the first across the line, she still made a difference for coach Sam Young’s team.

“No, she wasn’t one of the greatest runners in the world, but she came out and worked hard,” he said. “She was always smiling. I’ll never forget that sweet little smile.”

And despite being around great athletes over the years, Young feels there is a spot in his memory for team members like Angelina, too.

“In cross country, and I’ve said this a lot to people, it takes a different kind of kid to run. And I have never coached any better kid than what I have coached in cross country,” he said. “And I’ve coached basketball and other stuff. It took a lot for her to come out the first time her senior year. Sure, you’re going to remember those super athletes. You can’t forget them as a coach, but it’s the same with those special kids that you have. Like I said, I’ll always remember that smile. And her pleasant personality.

“And those you do remember. You will remember.”

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