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JU mourns tragic loss of beach volleyball student-athlete

Over the weekend, Jacksonville University learned of the sudden and tragic passing of freshman and beach volleyball student-athlete Makenzie Befus.

“It is with a heavy heart that I wish to extend my deepest condolences to the family of Makenzie Befus, a freshman student-athlete and member of the beach volleyball program here at Jacksonville University, who tragically passed away on Saturday,” Athletic Director Alex Ricker-Gilbert said.

“Makenzie will be dearly missed by her teammates, friends and everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her on this campus,” Ricker-Gilbert continued. “I can only imagine the heartbreak Makenzie’s family is experiencing. Our Dolphin family mourns with them and we’re keeping them in our thoughts and prayers through this difficult time.”

Kenzie’s unfortunate passing was presumed to be caused by an underlying health condition or other natural cause. She had competed in her first collegiate beach event earlier this month after spending the fall 2019 semester at St. Andrews University (NAIA) in Laurinburg, N.C. before transferring to Jacksonville for the spring 2020 semester.

“There is no way to express the sadness we have about the loss of Kenzie in our lives,” beach volleyball coach Darren Roberts said. “On the sand, she was a hard worker and a vital member of this team. Her smile was contagious. Her teammates describe her as a ‘bright soul’ as her joyous personality and free spirit was ever present. She is loved by her teammates and will be deeply missed.”

Makenzie was a four-year varsity letter winner in volleyball at Brighton High School and a three-time All-Conference selection, including being named twice to the First Team. She was also a two-time All-State Academic honoree.

“Our whole volleyball program and Dolphin family is devastated by the sudden loss of Kenzie and our hearts are with Shaylee and their entire family during this time,” head volleyball coach Maggie Couture said. “In my short time with the program it is clear to me that her tough, free spirt will be missed daily. The impact Kenzie leaves on those around her is obvious and we will forever grieve the loss of a player, teammate, sister and friend.”

Makenzie was born May 7, 2001, the daughter of Debbie and Mel. Her sister, Shaylee, is also a member of the beach volleyball program. Both were at home with their family in Colorado.

“As a coach, I looked forward to seeing her every day at practice,” Roberts continued. “She had an approach to her process of growth, as a player and a person, that I envied. Whether feeling frustration during times of struggle or joy in breakthrough moments of discovery, she had a way of not taking it too seriously. There wasn’t a single day that she didn’t make me laugh. We are thankful to have had Kenzie in our lives, and I feel blessed to have had a special connection with her. She touched my heart.”