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Recovering track coach Britten Olinger returns to Montreat College

Coach Olinger on the sidelines at September’s Hyder-McMahill Invitational. (Photo credit: Montreat College)

Just over six months after a tragic car crash in which he nearly died, Britten Olinger returned to work at Montreat College as assistant track and field coach on September 1, 2017. In his new role, Olinger’s responsibilities include coaching and training long, triple, and high jumpers, recruitment of new students for the track & field program, home meet management, coordination of meet officials, and administrative leadership for home events.

“Britten’s return is cause for thankfulness and celebration,” said Montreat College President Paul J. Maurer. “Our college community—and many in the larger local community—has been in prayer for Britten and his wife, Samantha, over the past six months. After visiting with Britten and his family the night of the accident and seeing his dire condition, where he is today is nothing short of miraculous. While his recovery is ongoing, this milestone is an answer to many, many prayers.”

On the evening of February 27, Olinger’s vehicle was struck in Black Mountain’s central intersection by a vehicle traveling an estimated 120 mph. In the impact, Olinger suffered a severed spinal cord, fractures to his pelvis and lower back, a broken arm, and traumatic injury to his lungs. The crash left him paralyzed from the chest down and his future very much in doubt.

Olinger’s crash had an immediate and galvanizing effect on the Montreat College campus. The college hosted formal and informal prayer vigils. A blood drive was organized in honor of Coach Olinger. The Montreat College Exercise Science Department hosted a 5k fundraiser to benefit the Olingers. And the hashtag #BrittenStrong began appearing on backpacks and athletic gear all across campus.

“Throughout his recovery, Britten has served as an inspiration to our athletes, our coaches, and to our entire community,” said Montreat College Athletic Director Jose Larios. “We are all thrilled to have him back.”

The incident elicited an outpouring of community support for Olinger and his family. Black Mountain’s Town Hardware, which was damaged by flying debris from the accident, dedicated its temporary storefront to messages of hope and prayer for Olinger. Many local businesses—such as the Native Kitchen in Swannanoa and Black Mountain’s Merry Wine Market, Lookout Brewery, Fresh Pizza, and White Horse Music Hall—hosted fundraisers or donated a portion of their revenues to the Olinger family. And over $130,000 has been raised to help the Olinger family on their GoFundMe page.

Olinger’s return to work at Montreat is just one of many recent milestones. On September 24, Olinger and his family were able to move back into their Black Mountain house for the first time since the accident. The move-in was made possible by a complete rehabilitation—including wheelchair accessibility—undertaken by a team of volunteers led by Montreat College Facilities Director Mike Shoaf. And on September 26, Olinger and his wife, Samantha, and their daughter, Kolbie, welcomed a new baby boy, Easton, into their family.

“Britten’s story is still unfolding,” said President Maurer. “We believe God spared Britten for a reason, and we are excited to see the journey God continues to lead him and his family on. While their journey is filled with significant challenges, we are pleased to be part of the supportive community that has come alongside them.”

Those wishing to contribute to Coach Olinger’s ongoing medical expenses are encouraged to donate at www.gofundme.com/brittenstrong.

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