An accomplished Illinois high school swimmer with dreams of competing in the Olympics died on Tuesday in a car accident that also killed her father.
Kendall Pickering, 15, was a prominent member of the Red Devil swim team at Hinsdale Central High School, and held a whopping 16 records in the school’s pool record books.
She and her father Robert Pickering, 59, were driving southbound on Interstate 85 in North Carolina when their car went off the right side of the highway just before 7 p.m., Trooper Ned Moultrie of the North Carolina Highway Patrol tells PEOPLE.
The SUV struck a drainage ditch and went down an embankment into a tree, and both Kendall and her dad died at the scene.
“Kendall was an outstanding swimmer, student, teammate & friend who left an indelible mark on all of us,” her high school wrote in a statement on Twitter. “Our thoughts go out to the family, friends and all who came in contact with her.”
According to FMC Aquatic, where she trained, Kendall and Robert Pickering were on their way to visit several colleges on the East Coast and in Florida.
Kendall won her first state championship at just 10 years old, and was ranked the fourth-best girls swimming recruit in the Class of 2023 in Illinois, according to Swimming World magazine and The Hinsdalean.
She helped lead her team to a championship in October in the 12-team Hinsdale Central Sectional, and won the 200-yard individual medley and both the 100-yard backstroke and breaststroke events, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“I’ve known her almost my whole life and just couldn’t believe it when my mom told me what happened,” longtime friend Baileigh Racky told the newspaper. “She loved her friends and loved swimming. She wanted to be in the Olympics.”
Kendall told local paper The Hinsdalean in 2017 that the Olympic games were her ultimate goal, and that she had her sights set on competing in 2024.
“It just takes giving it all you’ve got,” Kendall, then 12 years old, said. “If you put in the hard work you can achieve what you want to achieve.”
A GoFundMe page arranged to help her mother Kim and sister Taylor has so far raised more than $10,000.
PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to provide avenues for our readers to pay it forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information about Causes — hubs that bring charities, individuals, donors and corporate partners together to help people in need — visit GoFundMe.
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