James Block

In Memory of a Teammate and Friend

On Saturday, September 7th, the West Bend, UW-Stout, Wisconsin, and world running families lost a great member. Jamie Block was taken away too early due to heat stroke while running a half marathon in Minnesota. A number of times, I have told people that the Stout cross-country team was like a family. We ran together, ate together, hung out together, many teammates lived together, we did everything together. I feel like I have lost a brother. On behalf of the UW-Stout cross-country team and the world running community, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to Jamie's family and all of his other friends.

- Ryan Hill

(Click any picture for a larger image)

I am currently searching my collection for more pictures of Jamie. If you have any pictures you would like to see included here, please send them to me.

Jamie's Story

By Bill and Jaime Souza

            Never let it be said that one runner cannot have a far-reaching impact on others in the sport.  When the Division III cross-country teams of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference toe the starting line at this fall's races, team members will compete with their usual intensity but also with a sense of loss after one of their own passed away doing something he loved - running.

            Former University of Wisconsin-Stout (Menomonie, WI) runner Jamie Block collapsed and died one mile from the finish line at the Dick Beardsley Half-Marathon in Detroit Lakes, MN, on September 7, 2002.  The news spread rapidly among the members of the conference, including the UW-Stout team, for which my daughter, Jaime, has competed.

            Jaime:  I first heard the news from Kyran Hamill, a member of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire men's team.  I was away from home on what had been an enjoyable outing with friends.  "Jaime, you need to call me immediately!  It's urgent!" Kyran spoke into my cell phone.   Moments later my Stout teammate, Amy Arndt, called.  "You need to get home right away," she said, echoing Kyran.  I knew something must have been wrong, but I didn't know what it was.   I frantically told my friend, Katie, that I needed her to drive me home immediately.  As Katie pulled up to my apartment, I felt a knot in my stomach begin to form.  I slowly got out of the car.  Kyran was already there, having made the 25 minute drive from Eau Claire.  He came over to me, looked down at the ground, and told me that Jamie had died.  I lost my breath and could hardly believe what I had heard.  I was shocked.  Jamie had been one of my best friends from the Stout men's team.  We even shared similar first names, which had always been our common bond.

            When teammates are tight, losing one of them is like losing a member of the family.  It wasn't going to be easy for those who knew Jamie to accept his loss.

            Jaime: I cried so hard when I heard the news.  My roommates silently watched me, none of them knowing exactly what to say because they were just as upset and just as shocked.  We had all spent so much time with Jamie the weekend before.  He had returned from his new home in Fargo, ND, for our annual Alumni meet.  The first thing we thought of was how ironic it was that he had been so intent on spending so much time with us that weekend. 

Jamie always had a way of bringing people together; and as we gathered now at one of the houses where he used to live when he attended Stout, we started pulling out pictures and remembering the good times we had with Jamie.  He would have wanted that.  There had been some indication that maybe he had died of an enlarged heart, and we thought that it was somehow appropriate that a guy who truly had a "big heart" would die that way.  I can't ever remember a time that Jamie was angry or down.  He was the most positive person I knew.  He helped drive us all in our running and was always the life of the party.

The lives of some people can be compared to dashes - over almost as quickly as the race begins.  Others are blessed to live long lives - ultramarathoners, you could say.  Jamie Block ran cross-country, and isn't that typical of what life hands us - ups and downs that challenge us almost every step of the way.  But Jamie never stopped running.  His life was one always headed to the finish line.  As University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse coach, Mark Guthrie, expressed to the UW-Stout team, "As much of a tragedy as Jamie's death is, everyone needs to rejoice in the fact that they had the fortune to share a small part of his life, which hopefully has provided some measure of enrichment for all who knew him."

Jaime: As a runner myself, I know how much I love the sport, and that is also something I share with Jamie and all of my other teammates.  The day Jamie died, though, I almost found myself questioning something that we all love so much.  Running became for the moment, a double-edged sword.  At the same time, I am comforted by the fact that Jamie died running, his favorite thing. 

The cross country season will be different this year for all of us.  I myself am choosing not to use my last year of eligibility because of a string of injuries, so I will not be able to dedicate my races to Jamie this year.  I know my teammates will, and I know many of the teams that we run against in the WIAC will be dedicating their season to Jamie.  That is a beautiful testimony of remembrance. 

Jamie Block's father ran Jamie's last race, also.  My prayer for him is that he will always cherish the partnership he had with his son and that good memories will help him continue to log miles in remembrance of their mutual choice to be runners.  If my running helps my Jaime run for a lifetime, I will truly be blessed.  I'm already blessed whenever she comes home and gets out on the road with me.

Jaime: I may not be able to dedicate my season to Jamie, but I will continue to run.  Only, I will run like Jamie.  I will enjoy every stride and triumph in every completed mile.  I will run with passion and gratefulness.  I will not only run this way, I will live this way.  That is what Jamie was trying to teach all of us to do.   He ran one more, dramatic, final race to make his point clear and get our attention.  He was successful in this task, and I am forever grateful for the lessons he has taught me about running and about life.  I know I will continue to miss him.  This world has lost a great runner and an even greater person.

 Notes: Jamie Block's body succumbed to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which combined with dehydration, led to cardiac trauma.  He did not have a congenital heart condition, but his heart was swollen by efforts to resuscitate him.  Jamie passed away quickly and painlessly.  UW-Stout coach Joe Harlan has announced that the school's alumni/intrasquad cross-country meet will officially be known as the Jamie Block Alumni/Intrasquad Meet.  Jaime Souza will cherish her memories of her good friend, Jamie, as she and her father, Bill, continue to run toward the finish.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article
If any other members of the team, friends of Jamie, or anyone else would like to say some words, e-mail me and I will include your memories and comments here as soon as possible.