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Las Vegas soccer standout dies after fall on Washington hike

A group of friends hiking Wednesday evening in Gold Bar, Washington heard a scream, a splash and then silence.

At about 7:30 p.m., the group had been hiking at Wallace Falls State Park when a friend — later identified as Las Vegas teen Haylei Hughes — fell into water below.

After the initial scream, the teen’s friends turned their heads but couldn’t find the hiker, said Shari Ireton of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. “She was gone,” Ireton said Thursday.

Search and rescue teams, whose only clues were the teenager’s shoes and GoPro stick found at the base of the falls, recovered the 18-year-old’s body Thursday, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Hughes death stunned classmates and her former flag football coach at Cimarron-Memorial High School.

Hughes, who graduated from Cimarron this year, was a two-sport standout in high school who had signed to play soccer at Highline College in Des Moines, Washington, Cimarron coach Mark Bailey said Thursday.

“There might not have been a more physically-talented athlete in Las Vegas,” Bailey said. “Haylei will be missed terribly.”

About 100 friends gathered Thursday evening in Kellogg Zaher sports complex to commemorate the soccer player’s life. Young classmates and teammates shared tearful hugs. For many it would be their first experience of loss.

For Hughes, personal experience with loss came early, when her mother died after battling cancer, said Doug Borgel, a coach with the Las Vegas Premier Sports Academy. Hughes was about 13 at the time and spent the next few years living with her grandmother, he said.

“It just knocks the wind out of you,” Borgel said of the teen’s sudden death, noting that many in the the athletic community had worked to protect Hughes. Sports teams functioned as second and third families for the soccer player, he said.

“We got her to the finish line,” Borgel said.

Borgel was Hughes’ coach for six years at the club soccer team, where Hughes excelled. Hughes would often hop from practice to practice or game to game, dabbling in different kinds of sports, he said.

“Whatever she played, she was good,” Borgel said. And she was always compassionate, he said.

“She didn’t have a graduation party but went to everyone else’s,” he said. “She was the same on the field. That’s the kind of person she was.”

Cimarron-Memorial High School will honor Hughes with a vigil next week, Bailey said.

Contact Rachel Hershkovitz at rhershkovitz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @rzhershkovitz on Twitter.

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