HARRISONBURG, Va. - The death of a James Madison softball star has been classified as an apparent suicide, but Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson said Wednesday that an investigation into the death is continuing.
School president Jonathan Alger and athletic director Jeff Bourne announced the death of 20-year-old Lauren Bernett, a sophomore catcher and cleanup hitter for the Dukes, in a news release Tuesday. They provided no details.
"The official report from the medical examiner’s office is pending, and out of respect for her family and friends, there is no other information to release at this time," Hutcheson said in an email.
The announcement of Bernett’s death came a day after she was named the CAA player of the week for batting .778 with seven RBIs and four runs in a three-game weekend sweep of Drexel that pulled JMU within a game of league-leading Delaware.
"College athletics is great because of the people with whom we get to interact every day. We are a tight family. We are grateful that Lauren has been part of our JMU Athletics community and will always consider her to be a Duke. We will miss her dearly," the school said in a statement.
"Our thoughts are with her family; her coaches, teammates and friends; the rest of our department staff and student-athletes; and the entire JMU community. JMU Nation is a close community, and we grieve together," the school said.
Nearly two weeks ago, the parents of Sarah Shulze, a runner on the University of Wisconsin's track and cross country teams and former student-athlete in Ventura County, confirmed their daughter had taken her own life.
Sarah Shulze, a runner on the University of Wisconsin's track and cross country teams and former student-athlete in Ventura County, has died. She was 21.
"Sarah took her own life," the family said. "Balancing athletics, academics and the demands of everyday life overwhelmed her in a single, desperate moment. Like you, we are shocked and grief stricken while holding on tightly to all that Sarah was."
Shulze was a junior from Ventura County, California who competed in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. She earned academic all-Big Ten honors in 2020 and 2021 for cross country and in 2021 for track.
A 2019 graduate of Oak Park High, Shulze was a star distance runner at her high school. She was named Ventura County Athlete of the Year and earned a scholarship to Wisconsin in 2018.
Last month, Stanford Women's Soccer captain and goalkeeper Katie Meyer, a Southern California native, was found dead in an on-campus residence. She was 22-years-old. The coroner's office later determined that her cause of death was suicide.
Meyer's parents said They saw no red flags that suggested she was depressed or contemplating harming herself. She was just months away from graduating.
"She was excited," Gina said. "She had a lot on her plate. She had a lot going on. But she was happy. She was in great spirits."
Daria Lucchesi, a sports coach and founder of coaching company ProTheory wants the national conversation surrounding Meyer's death to lead to real action to support student-athletes. Lucchesi, a former college lacrosse star at James Madison University, says too many college athletes shoulder their mental health struggles in silence.
"There's a lot of talk around mental performance but not mental health, and it makes it really hard to talk about it because sports are kind of like this aggressive culture," Lucchesi said.
"We need to peel back the layers, because I've seen teammates go through it, I've gone through it, and being an athlete is someone who you are, and not just something that you do. But we need to flip that," Lucchesi added.