University junior, 21, dies while jogging

Princeton Packet

11 March, 1986

University junior, 21, dies while jogging


A 21-year-old Princeton University student who collapsed and died while jogging Monday suffered from a rare heart condition he did not know he had, an autopsy has revealed.

The Mercer County Medical Examiner’s Office attributed the death of junior John Wolcott of Balboa Islands, Calif., to an enlarged heart and abnormally sized cardiac valves.

Mr. Wolcott was jogging with several companions Monday afternoon on Wiggins Street in Princeton Borough when he collapsed. Efforts to revive him failed, and he was pronounced dead on arrival at 4:59 p.m. at the Medical Center at Princeton.

Dr. Raafat Ahmad, the county medical examiner, said the student suffered from a rare heart condition which was aggravated by the jog.

During the 4.5-mile tun Mr. Wolcott had just completed, his need for oxygen increased,  Dr. Ahmad explained. But because of his medical condition, he could not get an adequate supply of air to his heart, she said.

The student first experienced an irregular heartbeat, Dr. Ahmad said, and eventually went into cardiac arrest.

The autopsy was nearly complete Thursday afternoon.

Dr. Ahmad said the computer sciences major was born with an enlarged heart, although he did not know about the condition. Had it been diagnosed, she said, cardiac surgery may have been able to correct it.

“I have a feeling — from the condition of his heart — that he could have experienced some shortness of breath.” Dr. Ahmnad said “But he may not have known what do about it; he may have thought he was out of shape. That may be why he started to jog.” she theorized.

Mr. Wolcott was active in the Air Force ROTC and exercised rigorously in the program. However, Monday’s run marked the first time the student had jogged this season, Dr. Ahmad noted.

As the medical examiner finished her autopsy, shocked students, fellow computer sciences majors and dorm mates of Mr. Wolcott gathered Thursday afternoon for a memorial service at the Princeton University Chapel. The service began at 5 p.m.

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