Brownwood High School faculty members reflect following the passing of 2016 graduate McKenzie Cox

“McKenzie had a great spirit about her. She was someone who brightened everyone's day. She definitely made Brownwood High School a better place.”

Brownwood High School Principal Mitch Moore offered those thoughts about 2016 Brownwood High graduate and Tarleton State University freshman McKenzie Cox, who passed away Friday night at Brownwood Regional Medical Center following a one-vehicle rollover earlier in the day on U.S. Highway 67/377, nine miles west of Comanche. McKenzie, just 18 years old, was heading home following her classes at Tarleton.

Moore saw McKenzie on a daily basis during her senior year at BHS, as she worked as an office aide.

“We saw her everyday and she always had a great attitude and was always willing to help out the ladies in the office,” Moore said. “She was a joy to see everyday, and her teachers and fellow students felt the same way.

“I had just talked to her last Friday, she was in before Senior Night. We talked for 20 or 30 minutes last week and she was telling me about her workouts in college and being sore, how much she was enjoying it and how much she missed the people at BHS.”

Brownwood High track and field head coach Don Hood echoed similar sentiments about McKenzie.

“You hear about people that could brighten up a place when they walk in, and McKenzie was the definition of that,” Hood said. “She set the standard. There was just a magic about her. You can't measure the beauty of a person's soul except by how they treat others and the effect they have on others. She just loved everybody and everybody loved her. She had a happiness about her that was unmatchable.”

In 2015, her junior year, Hood witnessed McKenzie, in a decidedly underdog role on paper, capture the Region I-4A girls high jump championship by clearing a personal-best height of 5-3 to advance to the UIL State Championships at the University of Texas at Austin. Cox also qualified for regionals her sophomore and senior seasons, signing a national letter of intent with Tarleton just days before competing in her final meet as a Lady Lion.

“She had such a bubbly personality and was such a girly girl, it masked the fierce competitive nature that she had,” Hood said. “She had it in her mind back in the eighth grade that she wanted to go to the state track meet in the high jump. I don't know that anybody can know or measure the hours she spent training, the times we would come up to the track and just work and work sometimes for 30 minutes, sometimes for an hour and a half. She had a tremendous drive about her and it was so neat to see that fulfilled. You tell kids if they work hard and do the right things everything is supposed to work out for them and that doesn't always happen, but for her it did. It was really good to see someone who committed that much and put in that much time to have a chance to compete at that level and do the things she wanted to do.”

McKenzie also spent two years as a varsity cheerleader at Brownwood High, and Estella Soto was cheer sponsor during that time.

“Mickey, as we all knew her, was such a great kid,” Soto said. “As her former teacher and cheer coach, we spent lots of time together and got to be really close. She was a team player for the cheer squad. She was the go-to girl when things were getting a little dramatic, because she was the mature one of the group and could think outside of the box. She was the stability when we thought we had none. She never said no, she only worked to make things happen. There were times when things were tough, but she never complained about anything. All the cheerleaders looked up to Mickey because she was a true leader, a free spirit, and she lived and loved life to the fullest. She will be deeply missed.”

News broke of McKenzie's passing shortly before kickoff of the Brownwood Lions football game at Snyder Friday night, and distraught emotions were visible on the cheerleaders' faces — many of whom were cheering alongside McKenzie this time a year ago. On more than one occasion throughout the night, BHS cheerleaders gathered together in moments of prayer.

“Our cheerleading family is devastated,” said Cindie Clayton, current BHS cheer sponsor. “We had been receiving updates and praying for her on the bus, but learned that she hadn't made it about 15 minutes before the start of the game. I had never heard a negative word about her. This year's squad spoke of her often and admired her immensely. Our hearts go out to her family.”

With McKenzie just a few months removed from her days at Brownwood High School, the impact she made on the lives of current students as well as fellow members of the Class of 2016 has become evident in the last 24 hours.

“It's very tough when someone that young passes away, it just doesn't seem right,” Moore said. “What a tragedy for her classmates that just graduated last year. I know it was a tight class, a good group of kids and I've been on social media and seen all the comments about the impact she made on them. Some of our current students also competed with her on the track team and cheered with her. There's a lot of sadness and it hurts to lose a former classmate and a friend, but we'll hold on to the good memories we have of her and all the successes she had.”

Funeral services are pending with Heartland Funeral Home.