A university release said the 18-year-old Garner died of natural causes.
“I heard someone talk not long ago about how we give nicknames to those we love. We affectionately called Jonathan ‘Lil’ Johnny,’ but there was nothing little about him,” Kennesaw State track and field coach Andy Eggerth said in the statement. “Jonathan had a big heart, he ran big, and he had big things in store for him.”
In his lone meet with the Owls during the fall track season, Garner placed 12th in the 60-meter dash and 13th as a member of the 1,600 relay team Dec. 1 at the BSC Panther Indoor Icebreaker in Birmingham, Ala.
“In my short time with Jonathan, I developed a great relationship with him where I could be honest and give him a kick in the butt when needed, but then turn right around and put my arm around his shoulder and crack a joke with him. ‘Lil’ Johnny’ will be deeply missed, but never forgotten,” Eggerth said.
Garner was a four-year track standout at Roswell High School. In last spring’s Region 6AAAAA championships, he swept the 100 and 200 dashes.
He also competed as a junior Olympian, earning All-America honors in the 400 relay.
Born in Chicago and a resident of Roswell, Garner is survived by father Michael, mother Karon and 15-year-old sister Taylor.
Funeral services will be held Dec. 27 at Truelight Missionary Baptist Church in Walnut Grove, Miss.
Kennesaw State athletic officials are working with Garner’s family to hold an on-campus memorial service in his honor. Details are still in the planning stages.