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Posted 20 Jun 2001   For week ended June 15, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 16Jun01

By Kent Larsen

LDS Missionary Killed in Accident Was Track Star

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- One of the LDS missionaries killed in a traffic accident in England Tuesday was a Southern California track star who was chosen Orange County runner of the year by the Los Angeles Times in three consecutive years. Elder Mark Gleason died when a car driven by his companion, Elder Mihai Teodorescu, had to swerve into oncoming traffic. Gleason was three months away from completing his mission and presumably resuming his collegiate track career.

According to Gleason's family, Elder Teodorescu was trying to pass another car on a three-lane road using the center passing lane. An oncoming car in the passing lane forced him to swerve into the lane of oncoming traffic. The missionaries' car was broadsided, and both Elders were killed instantly.

While Gleason's family now lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah, he grew up in Southern California, attending Orange County's Mission Viejo High School. There he became one of the state's best runners, winning the state's Division II cross-country title his junior year and qualifying that year to compete in the national Championships. His senior year he won the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter races in the Orange County championships and then repeated that performance a month later at the state-wide Division II championships, becoming only the second runner in California history to finish first in three distance events.

His coach, Mission Viejo High School's Gene Gurule, said Elder Gleason was a competitor with a mentality like that of famed distance runner Steve Prefontaine. "That kid lived and breathed fire. He had no limits. He extended himself every time he ran. When he got on the track, there was no question what he wanted to do." But his family says he knew running wasn't the only thing in life, "He knew that running was a temporary thing. He told us that he would have traded every medal and every championship to be able to serve on a mission," said his father, Dennis Gleason.

Recruited heavily by top running schools, Gleason chose USU over Texas A&M when the latter pressured him to stay there instead of serving an LDS mission. At the end of his freshman year at USU, he was called to serve in Bristol, England.

His parents and older brother last saw him in person in the fall of 1999, when they visited the country. This past January Elder Gleason told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that saying goodbye a second time was very difficult, "It was gut-wrenching," he said. "After that, I cried on someone's doorstep while trying to share the message. I had to tell them about my family and how I just had to say goodbye to them again."

Now, his family is expressing thanks for having known him, and saying they are sure he is in a better place, "A place where he's teaching other people who didn't have a chance to learn while they were on earth," says his sister, Karen Gleason. "We feel we are judged after we die and then put into a kingdom. I feel Mark is receiving the greatest glory he can get. He's continuing his mission." They learned of his death Tuesday night while on a vacation in Yellowstone National Park. The next day they got a letter from him, "He mailed it the week before," Karen Gleason said. "He wrote that he was being transferred to Wales."

Elder Gleason is also being remembered this weekend in Southern California. The Times reports that his girlfriend, Many Rogers and his coach, Gurule, will both read tributes to him at Mission Viejo's baccalaureate ceremony on Sunday.


Mark Gleason; Mission Viejo Track Star
Los Angeles Times 15Jun01 S2
By Dan Arritt: Times Staff Writer

Ex-Diablos runner dies
Orange co CA Register 15Jun01 S2
By Eugene W. Fields: Orange County Register


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