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Jaren Wilkey/BYU
BYU's Chelsi Petersen, competing in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2008 Robison Invitational, was killed Friday in an auto accident.

PROVO — A 20-year-old Brigham Young University track star was killed in an early Friday morning car accident and U.S. Olympic trials competitor was critically injured.

BYU track member Chelsi Petersen, St. George, had just finished her freshman year of college and a career-high track performance in May. Former BYU sprinter Paul Smith, 24, was at the wheel and suffered multiple injuries. Smith had qualified to run at the U.S. Olympic Trials this month.

Petersen was killed just after midnight when the Dodge Intrepid she was riding in attempted to turn left off of US. 189 in Provo Canyon onto Squaw Peak Road — in front of an east-bound Subaru, said Utah Highway Patrol trooper Cameron Roden.

"Words cannot begin to express our feelings," BYU head women's track coach Craig Poole said in a statement. "It's devastating. Chelsi was one of the sweetest young ladies we have ever had on our team. She had a tremendous desire to be successful. She wanted to be here at BYU, competing, more than anything else in the world. It's just really too difficult to comprehend at the moment."

In mid-May Petersen participated in the Mountain West Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships where she finished seventh in the heptathlon with a career high of 4,883 points over the seven different events.

"She was such a good kid," said Jeff Reynolds, media relations director for track and field. "They all are, but she was kind of one of those spark plugs that everybody kind of gravitated towards. She had that personality."

The driver of the Intrepid, 24-year-old Paul Smith, was taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center where he remains in serious condition with a broken clavicle, broken ribs and a collapsed lung, Reynolds said.

Smith had previously run for BYU as a sprinter and was preparing to sprint at the US Olympic trials this month in Oregon, Reynolds said.

Troopers don't believe speed was a factor but think perhaps Smith got distracted and failed to see the oncoming car. An investigation is still ongoing. Petersen was wearing her seat belt, Roden said.

Petersen attended Dixie High School and came to BYU where she competed in the heptathlon as well as the long jump and on a relay team, Reynolds said. She was studying exercise science.


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