FAIRMONT – The Fairmont Senior High School girls soccer team got their practice in early Saturday.
The team traversed the streets around the high school to complete two laps for a total of about 3 miles, or 5 kilometers Saturday morning, but the exercise was actually in the name of memorial rather than straight practice.
Megan Stephenson was an athlete during her time at Fairmont Senior, but she passed away due to a car accident in 2017. The team was out Saturday to remember their teammate and friend.
“The whole girls soccer team is here, a lot of the lacrosse girls are here,” said Jon Cain, coach of the Fairmont Senior soccer team. “That really tells me how much they still think about Megan and how much she meant in their life.”
Cain coached Stephenson when she played lacrosse in high school, so for him and some of his current athletes to be a part of the Miles for Meg 5 k Memorial run was important to the group. The effort was important to hundreds because the attendance at the event flourished due to it being second annual observance, thanks to the memories Stevenson left.
“It’s so heartwarming,” said Eviana Barnes, race director for Miles for Meg and friend of Stephenson. “Everyone who is here is celebrating her, is celebrating Megan.”
Barnes organized the first memorial 5 k last year so the people Stephenson knew in her life could come together to remember their friend on her birthday weekend rather than let emotions overtake them alone.
“It’s so nice to have all these people with such good hearts and to be surrounded by such supportive people when you go through something like this,” Barnes said.
Although Stephenson reportedly hated running, according to Barnes, the event celebrated her athleticism in school, but also her fondness for sporting tie-dye clothing. Almost everyone running the 5 k showed up with swirling colors popping from their shirts and in some cases, pants and socks, to show their support for the colorful personality that was Stephenson. People could even tie-dye their own shirts after the race was over.
“Megan loved tie-dyeing so much so it was just a fun thing to do to commemorate her and spend time together,” Barnes said.
Kane too commented on the impact Stephenson left on the people she played sports with because her supportive attitude is reflected in the continued support of the people she met.
“Megan was the ultimate team player,” Cain said. “She was the kind of kid that if another teammate was down, she was there letting them know it was ok. These girls remember that and it means a lot to them.”
With this being the second run held in Stephenson’s honor, Barnes said she hopes to see it continue to grow and continue to be held if she ever leaves the area.
“I’m graduating college soon, I have two more years,” she said. “I’m happy to do it, it’s a lot of work but I would love to continue to do it as long as I have time to.”
Many of the participants of last year’s 5 k again came to run or walk this one, and Barnes expects the same will be said for next year. With the number of people Stephenson touched in her life, the race should continue to see participation for her memory.
“They want to continue the legacy and the memory of Meg by doing stuff like this,” Cain said. “They understand how strong Megan was and they want to continue that.”
Email Eddie Trizzino at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @eddietimeswv.