Johnstown field hockey coach remembers Case as ‘amazing kid’

Then-Johnstown High School students Haley Case, left, and Abby Van Valkenburgh had their faces painted for a rally on June 19, 2019 in the High School auditorium to help raise donations to keep the sports program. PETER R. BARBER/THE LEADER-HERALD

JOHNSTOWN – The 18-year-old woman who died following a car crash Friday morning was remembered by her high school field hockey coach for her efforts on the field, and for being part of a tight-knit group that grew up together.

Haley Case was the fatal victim in a crash between a Montgomery County Department of Public Works vehicle and another vehicle at the intersection of Routes 116 and 67.

Her high school field hockey coach, Christine Krempa, sobbed Saturday as she remembered Case, who was taking classes at Fulton-Montgomery Community College after Case graduated from the high school in June.

“She was just an amazing kid,” Krempa said. “From a coaching standpoint, she just always gave 110%. She was my smallest kid, by far, on the team. She probably weighed 110 pounds wet. But she was one of the toughest defenders I’ve ever had, and didn’t let her size inhibit her at all.”

Krempa said Case was integral to the team getting to the state championship during Case’s junior year in November 2019. Johnstown’s 1-0 loss to Bronxville in the Class C state championship game was the team’s lone defeat all season.

“She was a starter for me and just was so solid in that backfield for us,” Krempa said. “So, from a coaching standpoint, you couldn’t ask for a better kid.”

From a personal standpoint, Krempa said she knew Case well because the 2020 graduating class included Krempa’s niece, Taryn Ringer.

“All those kids were always at my house,” Krempa said. “So even though I coached her since ninth grade, I’ve known her since she was little just because they would swim at my pool and I would see them at birthday parties.”

Krempa said it’s another difficult blow for the 2020 graduates who were “robbed” of their senior year, from athletics and social standpoints, by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Johnstown field hockey had its fall 2020 season canceled, along with many other Section II sports season due to pandemic restrictions, but the “Fall II” season in March and April gave those teams, including Case and her teammates, a chance to compete before school was out.

“I feel like we ended their senior year on a high note,” Krempa said. “We were able to get them prom and we were able to have a normal graduation ceremony, and then for this to happen so shortly after they’ve graduated, is just terrible.”

All of the 2020 team’s seniors are returning to town upon news of Case’s death, Krempa said, mentioning Ringer flying back from Duke University in North Carolina, as has Abby Valkenburgh, who’s now attending the University of Tampa.

“I got thinking, I’ve been coaching for 13 years, and I can’t remember, thankfully, a death in the high school,” the coach said. “So I just think, even though she’s graduated, it’s only a few months ago that she’s been gone [from the school]. So, it’s just terrible.”

A teaching assistant in the high school, Krempa said this year’s team is equally devastated.

“We were able to find out [about Case’s fatal accident early on],” she said, “and get them all together in a room and tell them before they heard it on social media via their phones.”

Saturday’s games were canceled. The varsity was set to play a non-league game against Granville and the junior varsity was to take on Guilderland.

“There were just no way that we were going to be able to be in any kind of mental headspace to play a field hockey game [Saturday],” Krempa said.

After the program was given dedicated space during the school day Friday, practice after school also addressed the team’s collective grief.

“We didn’t play field hockey,” Krempa said. “We played kickball and I ordered them pizzas and let them raid the concession stand at Knox Field and just kind of let them try to get back to being a kid.

“When we got there it was very somber and the girls were still very upset. But once we started playing kickball, they finally were able to giggle and laugh and act goofy, and it was kind of nice and they all left in a better space than when they showed up.

“But who knows what Monday is going to look like? I think it’s just going to be day by day.”

Case, of New Turnpike Road, was pronounced dead after being transported to Nathan Littauer Hospital.

The accident occurred when a Montgomery County dump truck traveling eastbound attempted to take a left hand turn onto Route 116 heading north and struck the westbound vehicle driven by Case on the driver’s side, according to Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino.

Only the drivers were present in each of the vehicles at the time of the collision, and no other vehicles were involved.

The accident remains under investigation and no tickets have been issued. The driver of the dump truck is cooperating with police.