Tribute paid to fallen athlete

First slide
First slide
Previous Next

Far, far too many young faces were gathered Tuesday morning at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria to say goodbye to a son, brother, teammate, coach, mentor, teacher and friend. At 23, Robert Allen Sagar, a newly hired faculty member and assistant coach of Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, had really just begun to live. But it was at 23 that God called Sagar to his eternal home, whether those on earth were ready for it or not.

"How is this happening? How do you explain this?" said Father Chuck McCoart, pastor of Good Shepherd, where Sagar and his family are parishioners. "I know everyone here is thinking 'we're not supposed to be here.' And yet we gather together because we are, above all other things, people of faith - that we believe, we know, where Rob is. We don't have to like that the days were numbered so short, but we would never not thank God for every single blessed day we had with this man."

Sagar, a 2010 graduate of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, had big plans for his future, plans that involved studying Church history in Spain, earning a doctorate in history and running - always running.

It was while running that Sagar died Oct. 27, collapsing after a massive heart attack that doctors at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, even after working for an hour, were unable to revive him from.

While indeed a celebration of life, the funeral Mass was a heartbreaking 90 minutes of prayer and remembrances, including comments by Sagar's twin brother Matt; Ireton principal and family friend Tim Hamer; and, via a letter read by Father McCoart, Sagar's father, Richard.

It is a tribute to Sagar, Father McCoart said, that a crowd with such a diverse background filled the pews and lined the back walls of the church: teammates from William & Mary's track and field team, dressed in green and white track suits; peers and students from Ireton; friends from St. Louis School in Alexandria; and family and community members from Alexandria and Good Shepherd.

Born Aug. 7, 1987, in Arlington, Sagar attended St. Louis Elementary School in Alexandria and graduated from Ireton in 2006, where he and Matt set numerous long distance running records. A note on Ireton's website called the brothers "the most talented long distance running duo in Ireton's history."

He was a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society. Sagar graduated from William & Mary with a degree in history and a minor in classical studies. He was fluent in Latin and looking forward to pursuing his education.

At Ireton, Sagar was a substitute teacher, the proctor of the school's testing center and assistant coach for track and cross-country. His record for the one-mile run still holds strong at 4 minutes and 21 seconds.

According to Richard, Sagar collapsed about a mile and a half from the family's Alexandria home. He died between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Richard said it is possible Sagar had an enlarged heart, but a final autopsy report is pending.

"He was the nicest young man you'd ever want to meet," Richard said. "I don't think he had a bad word for anybody."

According to Hamer, Sagar had an "extremely brilliant mind, was very passionate about history and current events and his faith."

"Many of the kids who are the most devastated are those in the cross-county and track teams," Hamer said. "He was very much a personal mentor for many of these kids, the reason they became interested in the sport of running."

Bishop Ireton held a prayer service for Sagar at the end of the school day last Thursday. During a race last Saturday, the long distance running team of the Virginia Military Institute, where Matt attended, wore ribbons in honor of Sagar.

"He exemplified everything that we want Catholic young men to be," Hamer said. "He was a role model in every sense of the word. We will all feel his loss very keenly."

Sagar is survived by parents Richard and Debra, twin brother Matt, younger sister Lizzie, and countless family and friends. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010