There will be an empty seat in the visitors’ bleachers tonight at Center Grove.
In it, Castle’s most ardent supporter and biggest fan would have sat. Or, more likely, stood as she rang her cowbell and shouted encouragement.
But Krista Hurt, wife of coach Doug Hurt and unofficial team mom to all the Knights players who knew her, didn’t live to see this game.
The 35-year-old mother of two passed away in early September, just as Castle was embarking on an undefeated season that has taken it to tonight’s Class 5A regional championship.
“Krista was so vibrant and had such a passion for life,” Castle athletics director Leah Roop said. “Even in the midst of her pain, she was just the most energetic, passionate woman. She truly was such an amazing example for our young men of a good wife and mother.
“She was always out there supporting her husband.”
Krista Hurt’s battle with brain cancer, fought valiantly for nine years, reached its end Sept. 4. Just a few days earlier, she had found the strength to watch one final game, as the Knights defeated Evansville Reitz to move to 3-0 on the young season.
“She’s the first one to yell, to cheer for us. She was our biggest fan, and we loved her for that,” senior football players Grant and Mitch Carter told an Evansville television station at the time.
As Principal Andy Byers recalled, “After every game, Krista would go down on the field and greet ‘her boys,’ as she called them.”
Krista was where she wanted to be and whom she wanted to be with.
She and Doug were high school sweethearts at Castle in the mid-1990s. He was a strapping defensive end and center who was co-captain of the 1994 Class 5A state champion Knights. She was a standout volleyball player, playing under the watchful eye of mother Ginger Lutterman, one of the state’s most successful coaches.
After college, the two were married, and Doug rose up the coaching ranks at Castle. He took over as head coach in 2006.
During that time, Krista was diagnosed with brain cancer, the treatment for which was complicated by diabetes.
“It was a hard fight for her, her family and the Castle family,” said Byers, who said Krista fought the disease tirelessly with the support of many in the community.
With her sense of humor undaunted, Krista named the tumor “Fred” as she prepared for radiation treatment, and the school joined with special “Fry Fred” T-shirts to display their solidarity.
It worked, at least at first.