HITTERDAL, Minn. — Friends, family and community members are mourning the loss of 17-year-old Alivia Mortenson, a popular three-sport high school student who was pulled from a car found submerged in a Clay County slough this weekend.
"She was an amazing girl," said Mortenson's father, Ron. "(It) didn't matter what she did or who she was around. She touched everybody's hearts."
Students gathered Sunday evening, June 2, at Ulen-Hitterdal High School to remember one of their own. Alivia Mortenson, a Ulen teen who just finished her junior year, died in a crash about a mile north of Hitterdal on Minnesota Highway 32, Ulen-Hitterdal Public Schools Principal Kent Henrickson confirmed Monday, June 3.
“Everyone just gravitated toward her,” he said, adding that she was a genuine person who was nice to anyone she met.
There are few details available on what led up to the crash, which remains under investigation, Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting said. A passerby reported the crash at 5:18 a.m. Sunday after seeing a white Chevrolet Malibu upside down in a slough, Sgt. Darin Bredman said.
Empting said he couldn’t identify the victim since officers had to confirm all family members were told about the crash, but he said the girl was the lone occupant in the car. Investigators from his office and the Minnesota State Patrol are trying to piece together exactly when the crash happened and any factors that may have played a role in the tragedy, he said.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Empting said.
Adults and students from different schools attended Sunday evening's event to honor Mortenson’s life, Henrickson said. He described her as a positive, upbeat girl who enjoyed being around people and in school. She took part in multiple extracurricular activities, including the fine arts, basketball, softball and volleyball.
“She was involved in everything, just a great all-around kid,” he said, calling Mortenson a model student.
Mortenson was a gifted athlete, said Nicholas Hanson, head coach for the Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal girls basketball team. She made the all-conference team for girls basketball her sophomore and junior years and was close to 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, he said.
"That was kind of her milestone for her junior year," he said, noting that Mortenson gave it all she had on the court.
NCE-UH softball head coach Steve Radniecki called Mortenson a perfectionist who expected a lot from herself, and she achieved a lot in her career, he said. This year, the lead-off hitter who played second base made the all-state team, Radniecki said.
"She's an extraordinary softball player, an extraordinary athlete, but probably her best quality was how she was as a person — kind and caring," he said. "She was so encouraging all of the time and a great leader for us."
Not only was she our lead off hitter and second baseman she was a beautiful person with a very kind heart and great personality she touched many lives and made a lot of peoples lives better she will be greatly missed by all from now on we play for #12 love you forever Aliviapic.twitter.com/PwCuF2sBJH
Not only was she our lead off hitter and second baseman she was a beautiful person with a very kind heart and great personality she touched many lives and made a lot of peoples lives better she will be greatly missed by all from now on we play for #12 love you forever Aliviapic.twitter.com/PwCuF2sBJH— NCE-UH Titans Softball (@nce_uhsoftball) June 3, 2019
The Titans softball team called her "a beautiful person with a very kind heart and great personality," according to a post on its Twitter account.
"She touched many lives and made a lot of people's lives better," the tweet said. "She will be greatly missed by all."
Off the court, Mortenson joked with friends, was happy-go-lucky and seemed to always have a smile on her face, Hanson said. While playing sports, the teenager pushed others to improve themselves, he said.
"There's even been outreach from other schools and other players who have said she was such a fun player to go against and pushed them to be better, too," Hanson said.
With funeral arrangements pending, friends and students took to social media to say goodbye to the teenager. The loss has been hard on those grieving, coaches said.
"This is a strong community. We will pull together," her volleyball coach Tammy Lindell said.
Mortenson left behind an inspiring message of advice in the form of a tweet pinned to the top of her account.
"Appreciate all the time you have with the people you love," Mortenson wrote March 30. "You never know how much time you have left with them."
Appreciate all the time you have with the people you love. You never know how much time you have left with them.
Appreciate all the time you have with the people you love. You never know how much time you have left with them.— Alivia Mortenson (@MortensonAlivia) March 31, 2019