By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
"All right chicas! Even though half of our team is MIA, we've ended up with a grand total of 11 girls, 11 being our lucky number. We're going to burn rubber and beat those punks. Besides, we have got the power of Superman (as magic marker tattoos), and most importantly, the Flavor of the Day."
Those were the days of the Christian Brothers Academy girls varsity track and field under the leadership of captain Megan Patterson. In a mix of humor and intense seriousness, she referred to runners who skipped practice as "MIAs," the competition as "punks," and exclaimed "Oh Dear God" both in surprise and disbelief after every performance. Lip Smackers became a race ritual for Megan's team, and anything that included the number 11 had to be good.
Sadly, Megan's life and contagious free spirit reached an untimely finish line on June 26. Megan drowned in the Saranac River while inner-tubing with friends near the SUNY-Plattsburgh campus, which she had called home for the summer.
A fiery, proud Irishwoman from Liverpool, Megan had sparkling blue eyes and a nose with a perpetual hint of sunburn. Besides being an outstanding runner, Megan was one of the most amazing soccer players CBA had ever seen, and she also enjoyed skiing in her free time.
By the end of high school, Megan was a member of the All-League, Herald American All-CNY, and All-State teams, and was the MVP of the track team.
During an illustrious track career, she set four school records. She ran the 100 meters in 12.9 seconds, 200 meters in 26.9, long jumped 14 feet, 9½ inches and led CBA's 1997 4x100-meter team to a time of 52.6.
During the warm-up preceding a track meet, a spectator once commented that the 800 would better suit Megan. He then saw her magic, but still could not believe that her legs moved that fast. Her coach likened her running to that of the cartoon character Road Runner. Although Megan had phenomenal talent, she dedicated herself to the sport and earned her medals through hard work.
One could always count on her smiling face at each practice and every meet, along with her trusted "Flavor of the Day."
Many athletes have superstitions and good-luck charms. The CBA girls relied on Megan's "Flavor of the Day." An avid collector of Lip Smacker lip-glosses, Megan carried a different flavor each day, fondly known to the team as - you guessed it - the "Flavor of the Day." Blueberry, chocomint, Dr. Pepper and bubble gum not only healed her teammates' chapped lips, but lifted their spirits as well. Granted, they all got the same cold for the sake of tradition.
Megan had warmth and kindness that spread to many people, and crossed petty high school rivalries. Her outward gentleness contrasted with the fierce inner competitive spirit. It was difficult to imagine that someone so nice could be such a ruthless competitor on the track and the soccer field. Yet, there she was, nice and pretty, smart and fast, optimistic and enthusiastic.
Megan got along with all the athletes on her team. She cheered the sprinters, encouraged the jumpers, applauded the throwers, and urged on the distance runners. She was the captain and the "glue" of the team, transforming many athletes into sectional champions.
On the track and off the track, she added life to daily practice. While the word "practice" brought the worst out of whiners, Megan was there, always willing to train harder.
As the CBA track team looks to the future, its members will run and remember Megan. Her belief that running's true gift must be enjoyed through hard work will inspire future generations, as the tale of Megan Patterson develops into a legend. Certain that she will watch over them down the home stretch, they will wear number 11 on their arms, and remember.
Megan brought new meaning to Lip Smackers, lucky number 11, and MIAs. A wonderful person, a good friend and a role model to younger teammates, Megan has gone MIA with many races left un-run and goals untended. Oh Dear God, watch over her.
Kamal Jabbour followed Megan's running throughout her high school career. He misses her cheerful voice urging her teammates toward the finish line.
Jabbour's RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at email@example.com.