What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen

What began as "Split Image," a profile piece for ESPN by columnist and feature writer Kate Fagan (The Reappearing Act), swelled into a heartbreaking exploration of mental health in college sports during the era of social media. Madison Holleran was a 19-year-old freshman University of Pennsylvania track recruit whose depression resulted in her suicide in January 2014. As she wrote about Maddy, Fagan heard from many others like her--young athletes struggling with depression or anxiety. Fagan cites the NCAA as saying, "suicide is the third-leading cause of death among student-athletes--behind accidents and cardiac causes." The overwhelming prevalence of mental health issues among these young people inspired Fagan to expand "Split Image" into What Made Maddy Run.

Fagan depicts the Maddy Holleran her friends and family knew, a smart, beautiful, talented, successful young woman. In high school, she excelled at soccer and track, the latter being the sport that opened doors to an Ivy League college. Through Maddy's text messages, personal writings and relationships with those around her, Fagan illustrates how college turned out to be the trigger for her depression.

Entwined with Maddy's story is Fagan's: her own experience with anxiety and having a panic attack; the state of college athletic programs--Fagan played college basketball at Colorado University; and her research and efforts to connect with other college-level competitors. With immense empathy, she shares insights particular to student athletes, but presents them in universally accessible language and connects with the non-athlete through vivid examples.

Maddy Holleran's story is tragic, but not rare. Fagan demonstrates with sensitivity and compassion the urgent need to understand and address a deadly problem. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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