It was a tough day Wednesday for Midland Elementary School students as they learned it was their physical education teacher who died on the Manitou Incline.
Rescuers said Vanessa McMichael, 58, may have had a heart attack Tuesday.
Those who knew McMichael told KRDO Newschannel 13 they were shocked by her sudden death because McMichael was an athlete who made it her mission to help students lead a healthy life.
"I've known her for a long time, and it was just painful to hear that she was gone," said Midland fifth-grader Makayla Kauffmann. "We all miss her, and everybody was just really sad."
Kauffman said many students at Midland were in tears when they were told the news.
"It was really, really devastating," she said.
McMichael was known by students as "Coach." District 11 spokesperson Devra Ashby said she was a runner who kept a strict diet.
"She was very conscientious of her health. She had completed the Pikes Peak Ascent several times, so she wasn't someone that was new to the Incline," said Ashby. "I think she was very athletic and fit, so it was a shock."
McMichael was with D-11 since 2003. Her death was also being felt by former students.
"It was really out of the blue, and (my friends and I) talked about we definitely want to honor her in some way," said Devon Klingman, who's now in ninth grade. "She was very important to the Midland community and the Colorado Springs community. She'll be missed."