Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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August 12, 2012

Freshman runner drowns during post-practice swim

VALDOSTA, Ga. - A freshman cross country runner drowned in the Suwannee River on Wednesday after one of his first practices with his Valdosta State University teammates.

Tajay Hoppines, 18, went swimming with fellow runners in the river's murky waters after training in the adjacent Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Fla., south of Valdosta.

The runners set out to swim across the river from a popular sandbar when Hoppines went under. Teammates attempted to bring him up but couldn't find him. A search and rescue crew discovered his body the following afternoon.

Hoppines was an incoming Valdosta State freshman. He attended Mill Creek High School in Hoschton, Ga., about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta., where he played soccer and ran cross country.

"This is obviously devastating news," said his high school principal, Jim Markham. "He was a fine young man."

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Details for this story were provided by the Suwannee Democrat and The Valdosta Daily Times.

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