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High School AD, Coach: World’s Got It Wrong

Who will speak for Elizabeth?
Margaret Neill will, has done so, and would like to say much more.
“I love Liz to death, and I do want to help her,” Elizabeth Lambert’s high school athletic director told the Journal Tuesday morning. But the frenzy created by her former student’s violent actions on the soccer field last week has gotten so nasty, so toxic, that many people close to Elizabeth Lambert have chosen to remain silent.
In fact, Neill said, she was speaking despite an order from her principal at Paraclete High School in Lancaster, Calif., not to talk with the news media.
She couldn’t help herself. Her concern for Lambert, coupled with her horror at the cyberspace carnival that has made the young University of New Mexico soccer player an international villain and the butt of a million bad and often disgusting jokes, was too much.
“Liz was wrong, and she’ll be the first one to tell you,” Neill said. “We don’t condone what she did, but enough is enough. She’s a good kid in a bad situation.
“If you want to write that (despite her principal’s order), I don’t care.”   
My assignment was to paint a portrait in words of Lambert — a balanced picture, not the ugly and distorted one Lambert painted of herself on a soccer field in Provo, Utah, last Thursday. And, certainly, not the Dorian Gray treatment she’s getting online; there are some really vicious people out there, and I don’t mean Elizabeth Lambert.
Is the Lambert who grabbed Kassidy Shumway by her pigtail and flung the Brigham Young University soccer player to the ground — the lowlight of a video that surely now has been viewed millions of times around the world — the real Elizabeth? The only Elizabeth,  a complete and accurate picture? I sincerely doubt it.
Here’s the problem, though. It seems no one, or almost no one, wants to talk.
Since noon Sunday, voice or electronic messages have been left for:
n Neill;
n Lambert’s former soccer coach at Paraclete;
n Four individuals who attended Paraclete with Lambert, including a former soccer teammate;
n Lambert’s former coach at SoCal Real, the UNM athlete’s club team;
n Kurt Esser, UNM’s athletic director for external affairs, who oversees women’s soccer.
The response? Virtual silence, a stark contrast to the deafening noise of the Internet.
Only Neill and Linda Kudrik, Lambert’s soccer coach at Paraclete, responded.
“I don’t think the video that I saw is at all an accurate representation of Liz as a player or a person,” Kudrik said via e-mail Tuesday morning. “She’s a great kid.”
Kudrik invited me to ask more questions, but as of  Tuesday night had not responded to a follow-up e-mail. Maybe her principal’s edict caught up with her.
I did get a return message from a man who identified himself on a Facebook site — there are at least two Elizabeth Lambert Facebook sites, each more disturbing than the other — as a Paraclete classmate of Lambert’s.
“i went to high school with liz!!!! helll yaaa!!!!” was his apparently supportive comment on Facebook; I thus was hoping that, when contacted, he’d provide a little insight.
Instead, he replied to my query via e-mail, “its none of my business… shes a good friend of mine and id really would rather stay out of it…”
Hey, guy; your good friend could use a little support. I hope, at least, that you’re providing that privately.
In Albuquerque, response was equally muted.
Steve and Becky McKernan, whose daughter Katie is a teammate of Lambert’s at UNM, did speak in support of the embattled Lobo — but with limited information. They know Lambert only casually from having hosted several team dinners at their home.
“I know her just as an acquaintance, as one of the girls,” Becky McKernan said. “She was very sweet, always, very sweet. All the girls are.”
Steve McKernan said, “We’ve known her to be very nice, and we’ve watched all the soccer games and never saw anything like that.”
Monday, I called UNM sports information director Greg Remington for help in finding someone with whom I could talk about the real Elizabeth Lambert.
Remington said he was standing right next to Esser. the assistant AD in charge of women’s soccer.  Esser told me, through Remington, to give him 30 seconds to get to his office, then to call.
Apparently, Kurt got lost on the way to his office. My call was never returned.
So goes the search for the real Elizabeth.

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