Former Jesuit Cross Country Runner Found Dead in Colorado

A Jesuit cross country runner who went on to the University of Kansas before becoming a track and field coach himself was found dead after being reported missing from a solo hike in Colorado.

Ben Brownlee, 26, was reported missing Sunday evening after a planned hike to the San Juan Mountains near Lake City, Colorado.

Wednesday afternoon, Brownlee was presumed dead by Hinsdale County law enforcement officials when a body discovered 100 feet or so below a steep ridge near Cooper Creek Peak was identified by friends searching by private helicopter Tuesday afternoon, the Hinsdale County Office of Emergency Management said.

The Hinsdale County Office of Emergency Management said that Brownlee’s body was recovered by helicopter Wednesday.

“Brownlee’s family, who had traveled to Lake City to help in the search, were notified immediately,” the county OEM said. “The mission to recover Brownlee’s body began Wednesday morning, October 7, with a dozen Search and Rescue volunteers along with Hinsdale County Undersheriff Jordan Kaminski staging at the Redcloud Peak Trailhead at Burrows Park on CR 30. A rescue helicopter from Montrose, Colorado-based MBR Helicopters rendezvoused with the team to prepare to extract Brownlee’s body.”

Brownlee’s body was recovered by 2 p.m., and the coroner pronounced death at the staging area.

While at Jesuit, he was a member of a two-time district championship cross country team during his junior and senior years, and was district champion in the 800 meters in 2012, and runner-up in the 400 meters in 2012. He was also a member of the national honor society and an honor roll student.

The University of Kansas released a statement regarding Brownlee’s death, calling him a “valued member” of the team. Brownlee was on the track and field and cross country teams from 2012 to 2016.

“Ben was a valued member of our team. My prayers are with his family, teammates and friends. We will miss his great smile and personality,” Head Coach Stanley Redwine said.

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Ben Brownlee. He had such enthusiasm and love for his family, friends, KU and hiking. My heart goes out to all those that loved him and his family and friends and teammates,” Assistant Coach Michael Whittlesey said.

At KU, Brownlee earned Academic All-Conference honors in track and field in 2014 and 2015 and in cross country in 2013. Brownlee graduated Cum Laude with a degree in business marketing. According to his Facebook page, he was a track and field coach at Regis Jesuit High School.

He is survived by his parents, John and Jennifer Brownlee, and his siblings, Ethan and Heather.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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