Ryan Post always went out of her way to make her friends laugh and did everything she could to make herself and those around her better, teammates at Cheer Xpress said Friday night.
The 13-year-old was taken too soon, said cheer coach Karen Capoun.
Wednesday night, Ryan would've been in the gym with her teammates for practice. When Capoun heard there had been a multi-vehicle crash near the Norris school campus south of Lincoln, she started to pray.
"I just said, 'Dear, God, don't let it be one of ours,'" she said. "And when I found out it was Ryan, I just said, 'Please, dear God, don't let it be her in the helicopter.' And it just went from bad to worse."
Ryan, a Norris eighth-grader, was riding home from school Wednesday afternoon in a car driven by her sister Riley Post when it was involved in chain-reaction crash just north of the school on South 68th Street. Ryan was airlifted to Bryan West Campus, where she died Thursday afternoon.
The cheer coaches told the cheerleaders near the end of practice that Ryan had been injured.
"Some of the girls were on social media and we just didn't want them to find out like that," Capoun said.
Friday night, friends, family and teammates gathered in the Cheer Xpress gym to remember Ryan.
Dozens of young girls sat on the floor, each carrying a rose, as they shared stories and heartache.
"It's really hard to say she's gone," close friend Gabby Dennis said. "We need to all try to be strong, like Ryan always was. She's a part of our heart. I don't know what I'm going to do without her."
Ryan spent three days a week in the gym practicing with the Excellence Junior Level Four team and the Restricted Level Five team.
Her coaches describe her as a dedicated athlete who brought endless amounts of energy and happiness to the gym.
"She was the kid who never wanted to leave," Capoun said. "She would've lived in the gym if I had a cot in the back."
Ryan joined competitive cheerleading five years ago and became part of the "tight-knit family" at Cheer Xpress.
Her death was a shock.
"Seeing all the kids grieving is the hardest part, because you don't know how to help them because you're feeling that way, too," Capoun said. "It's heart-wrenching."
Ryan is survived by her parents Colleen Lovett and Jeramie Post, and sisters Raelyn Post, Riley Post and Dakota Sturm.
Ryan's family plans to bury her in the outfit she loved most — her cheer uniform. And her teammates plan to incorporate her favorite color, blue, into their uniforms when competition starts in a few weeks.