By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - A member of the ski team at a prestigious U.S. college collapsed and died over the weekend from unknown causes while competing in a cross-country ski race in Vermont, a spokesman for Dartmouth College said on Sunday.
Torin Tucker, 20, a junior from Sun Valley, Idaho, was climbing an uphill stretch of a rugged 25-kilometer course in northeast Vermont on Saturday morning when he fell to the ground. He died moments later and did not respond to resuscitation efforts, said Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson.
Officials did not immediately release a cause of death.
"We don't yet know what happened, in part because it was a total surprise," he said. "There's no reason this should have happened to a phenomenal athlete, a young man who was in great shape."
After Tucker collapsed, his teammates withdrew from the competition, Anderson said.
The flag at the Ivy League school in Hanover, New Hampshire was being flown at half-staff in Tucker's honor on Sunday as news of the incident spread across a campus that is home to 4,200 undergraduates and 2,100 graduate students, Anderson said.
Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon called the death "a heartbreaking loss" in a written statement and urged students, faculty and staff affected by it to speak with a counselor or therapist.
"Many of us are still in shock and incredibly saddened by yesterday's tragic event," Anderson said.
An autopsy is likely, pending family approval, said Anderson.
Tucker and other members of the Dartmouth ski team were among hundreds of contestants in a premier nordic skiing marathon based in the tiny town of Craftsbury in the northeastern corner of Vermont near the U.S. border with Canada.
The competition, called the Craftsbury Marathon, draws as many as 1,000 skiers of all ages each year and is billed as the largest cross-country race in the eastern United States, according to its website. The marathon, which includes a 50-kilometer event, is celebrated for groomed trails that cut through scenic forests and meadows and which course over rolling hills.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Meredith Mazzilli)