FORT WORTH -- As Southwest High School sophomore Serenada Sanchez rounded the final bend of her squad’s cross-country practice run early Tuesday at Foster Park, coach John Church wasn’t standing, waiting, timing her and her teammates.

Something was not right.

“Coach was just sitting at this bench,” Sanchez said.

On Wednesday evening, many who loved Church laid flowers, crosses and photos on that same bench, after Church, 48, died Tuesday morning.

Church suffered a “cardiac event,” but his brother Jim Church was unsure whether it was a heart attack that killed the teacher and coach, who worked in the Fort Worth school district his whole career after graduating from UT Arlington in 1991.

“When we got to him, he couldn’t respond to us. His nose was purple,” Sanchez said. “We set him on his back on one of the mats we brought for our workouts. I started CPR, but it was really, really hard to focus, because this is somebody that you love and you know he’s not doing good.”

One of Sanchez’ teammates assisted with CPR while another called 911. Fort Worth Fire Department officials told Southwest Principal John Engel that Sanchez and her teammates acted heroically in their attempts to save their coach’s life.

“Their actions were heroic no matter what the outcome. They were obviously willing to do anything for their coach,” Engel said.

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