ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — Milligan student-athlete Eli Cramer was doing what he loved on March 31 when a man accused of driving while under the influence hit and killed him and injured two other teammates.

Tuesday, April 5, the Milligan community honored the 20-year-old’s life in Seeger Memorial Chapel, where teammates, friends and university leaders spoke of the legacy the two-time All-American runner left behind.

Eli Cramer. Photo courtesy Milligan University

“Cramer was a runner at heart,” said Buffalo Cross Country Co-captain Ethan Pfister. “He never gave up the opportunity to run ever, hence free mileage — his common saying — or to run with anybody else.

“And he had to work, and I don’t mean the normal work that all of you already find atrocious that we runners do; I mean he worked harder than everyone on this team. And he had to. He did, and it’s because he wanted to be great, and he was great; he just didn’t know it.”

Pfister told the Milligan community that one single story could not sum up Cramer and the life he led as a family member, friend, student and athlete. The co-captain said that as family, friends and students continue to mourn, they all experience the tragedy through a different lens, but one factor remains: Those who knew Cramer loved him.

“As I prepared to talk about Cramer today, I had an intense mix of emotions, obviously,” said Pfister. “I thought through all the stories people have told; I thought about what he means to so many people. I thought about what he means to me.

“I scrolled through pictures and videos. I watched moments like when I taught him to change his tire — not once but twice, and he didn’t listen either time. I scrolled through everyone’s recollection of him, story after story. I realized that no amount of stories can tell you how much he meant to me, but then again, that’s not just my reality. It’s hundreds of people. Thousands of people. Cramer has touched people, and that’s because he was contagious.”

Another fellow runner, Junior Alex Windham, echoed Pfister’s sentiments at Cramer’s memorial.

“It’s impossible to completely articulate everything that he meant to us, and I don’t believe that should stop us from attempting to do so — whether it be laughing, crying, meditating, praying or talking about the life of Eli,” said Windham. “And as is the case for many of us, I thought through the many stories of Eli. It seems like no matter who you are, there are plenty of them.”

And while those stories may seem like the last from Cramer, his memory and love for cross country and track runs beyond the days of his life — in a way that allows his story to continue.

“On Thursday, Cramer did die doing the thing he loved,” said Windham. “God gave the wonderful gift of running to Eli for a reason. He was made to run…He poured out the love for running to everybody that he met. We’ve seen in only a few days how many people he reached. And Cramer didn’t discriminate how he poured out his love either when it came to running.”

Milligan University President Bill Greer also spoke at the memorial, noting the impact the young runner had on communities far beyond the Tri-Cities region.

“Cramer was clearly a man whose short life had tremendous impact, which is evident through ways he is remembered,” said Greer, mentioning that the University of Tennessee’s Track and Field team had honored the student-athlete’s legacy by painting The Rock on the college’s campus.

Greer revealed that university officials at William & Mary, the school at which Cramer and the team were expecting to compete, reached out to Milligan, expressing their condolences and support to a grieving community.

“This is the kind of sentiment that has been shared over and over again in the recent days,” said Greer.

Athletic Director Christian Pope said that a majority of people strive to be just the type of person Cramer was to many: determined, inspiring and genuine.

“We want to be a person that makes a difference,” said Pope. “We want to be a person that has a purpose. We want to be a person that makes an impact. Eli Cramer was just that person.”

The president of Milligan ended by motivating those who love Cramer to move forward the way they remember Cramer did.

“Let us never forget to live as Eli Cramer lived,” said Greer. “Always striving to be the best version of ourselves that we can be and always encouraging others to do the same.”

Teammate and co-captain Pfister reminded the community to try to carry themselves the way Cramer was known to carry himself, whether it be putting a smile on someone’s face or showing empathy for others.

“Remember Eli Cramer by trying to live like him,” Pfister said. “You laugh, and you should love, and you should be considerate and care and check for those who others seem to forget about. Dedicate your day to just making someone’s day. Just do good for others. Cramer’s life, it’s an example of Christ in some capacity, and if you didn’t see it active, I hope you see it now.”