By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Cycling accident claims South grad
Decorated athlete sought adventure
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News

How to help
Lees-McRae College's Carla Swart Memorial Scholarship will be awarded annually to a female cyclist. Checks should be made out to Lees-McRae College, with Carla Swart Scholarship in the memo line, and mailed to the Office of Advancement, P.O. Box 128, Banner Elk, NC 28604. For more information, call Caroline Hart at (828) 898-8777.

The cycling community is mourning a South Forsyth High School graduate who was killed last week while training in South Africa.

According to media reports, 23-year-old Carla Swart died Wednesday after she turned into the path of an oncoming truck during a time trial session.

She apparently dropped her cycling computer and looked over her left shoulder to see if the road was clear. In South Africa, motorists drive on the left side of the road.

Swart made a U-turn and apparently did not see the truck, according to reports.

Clayton Tillery was Swart's cross country and track coach at South. Tillery, who now coaches at West, said Swart joined the team her sophomore year after arriving from South Africa.

"She was a really good kid," Tillery said. "She'd never done any running or anything before, but played rugby and she just really jumped in with the set of girls that we had there at the time and they became real good friends."

Tillery said Swart was a successful runner who started cycling while at South and later got involved with the Fulton Flyers Cycling Club.

He said she was recruited by Lees-McRae College primarily for cross country, but also for cycling.

While at the North Carolina school, her focus shifted from running to riding. The school has established a scholarship in Swart's honor.

According to information on the school's Web site, Swart was the most decorated collegiate cyclist in history, winning 19 individual and team national championships for Lees-McRae.

In 2008, she became the first cyclist to win U.S. collegiate titles in road, track, mountain and cyclocross in one season.

Among other feats, she went on to take the Best Young Rider Award in the Tour de l'Aude in France, won the sprinter's jersey in the Cascade Classic and finished eighth in the Ronde Van Drenthe World Cup classic.

"She was pretty much the next big thing internationally," Tillery said.

Jennifer Barbi said the news of her former South teammate's death came as a shock.

"She was probably one of the most adventurous people I had ever met," Barbi said. "Since she was from South Africa, there was a rumor on our team that she had killed a lion with her bare hands and I think half the team believed it."

It was no surprise to Barbi that Swart had accomplished as much as she had as a cyclist. She said her friend was a great leader and competitor, as well as a memorable person.

"She was very outgoing and would try anything, but she also was very sweet," Barbi said. "She had a big heart and would do anything for you."