MEDINA — Taylor Ceepo was a high-level athlete who didn’t tackle new adventures without being properly prepared.
So those who knew her were shocked when they heard she collapsed within a mile of the finish line during the 42nd annual Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon on Sunday. The 22-year-old Medina woman was pronounced dead at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.
Ceepo graduated from Walsh University this spring where she starred on the women’s soccer team. After her soccer career was over, she started running, something her mother and younger sister already did.
Her former club director with the Internationals, a top-ranked club soccer team based out of Pinnacle Sports in Granger Township, said Ceepo prepared for Sunday’s 13.1-mile course, which was her first half-marathon
“She was healthy and active,” Keri Sarver said Monday. “This is something she trained for. As far as I know, she had no signs or symptoms. It was a complete shock.”
Sarver isn’t sure if the hot and humid day contributed to Ceepo’s death.
“I don’t want to speculate,” she said.
Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson said in a statement Monday that a preliminary investigation did not determine a definitive cause of death. It may take weeks for further investigation, including more testing and a review of her medical history, Gilson said.
Sunday was a warm race day as temperatures climbed into the low 80s by late morning, according to the National Weather Service.
Officials from University Hospitals, which provided medical support during the race, told Cleveland media outlets they treated between 60 and 70 racers along the course for such things as heat illnesses, dehydration, muscle strain and injuries.
Sarver said Ceepo, a midfielder, played 10 years for the Internationals. The team features players from all over Northeast Ohio and as far east as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“She was a big part of the success of our program,” she said. “Soccer was her passion.
“She went on to play at Walsh. She played at a high level.”
While with the Internationals, she played in four state championship games and in the national finals.
“She had good ball skills,” Sarver said. “She could read the game very well.”
Taylor’s sister, Isabella, plays on the Internationals’ 17-and-under team. The junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary plays for the club year-round and has committed to play soccer at Cleveland State University.
“Taylor was not just a member of the club,” Sarver said. “We consider her family and a lifelong member.”
She used to come to watch her little sister play.
“We saw her on the sideline the last four years,” Sarver said. “She was still very connected. So were her parents. The whole family was a huge part of our club for 15 years.”
Sarver said she’s known Taylor since she was 8.
“I would describe it as heartbroken,” she said. “We’re shocked. This is the first time something like this has happened on our club. We have to figure out how to process it. It’s a family-type environment.
“It’s difficult for everybody. Our hearts are broken for us and the family.”