The Super Bowl typically comes around one special Sunday a year. This past weekend however, friends and family of Meagan Elizabeth Smith came together to play a tournament of their own in loving memory of the former Western student.
On Sunday, Oct. 4, more than 100 people attended the Super Bowl Memorial Hat Tournament for Smith. The Ultimate Frisbee event was held in honor of Smith’s life and the game she loved to play.
Before the kickoff, Anthony Smith, Meagan’s father, thanked the crowd for attending.
“She loved this area, this university, Ultimate Frisbee and she loved all of you,” he said.
Smith was killed by an armed intruder on July 7, 2015 while she was housesitting for a friend in Renton. Since her death, numerous fundraisers, scholarships and memorial gatherings have paid tribute to her life.
Smith is remembered fondly by her friends and teammates, including friend Jay Toves. Smith’s personality and style of playing was fun and captured the culture of ultimate, Toves said.
Bellingham Ultimate and Western’s Ultimate teams Chaos and Nyx helped organize the event, Bellingham Ultimate organizer Jesse Sturgis said.
The tournament’s name, “The Super Bowl," was inspired by a phrase Smith used to use, Sturgis said. Anytime something great happened on the field, she would yell that we were going to the Super Bowl at the top of her lungs, Sturgis said.
Bellingham’s ultimate community is tight-knit and members are honest and cooperative, Sturgis said.
“Ultimate is the sport that would describe her. It’s fun, it can be goofy. It’s positive 95 percent of the time and she was pretty positive all the time,” Toves said.
Toves wore a red T-shirt at the tournament to show his designation to the 49ers team. The other teams, the Seahawks, Broncos, Raiders, Packers and Vikings, all participated in games of six players versus six, with the usual seventh spot for a game reserved for Smith.
“I wouldn’t say she was the most competitive person on the field, but she also wouldn’t not play,” Toves said. “I think everything Meagan did was fun — I think it was all for fun.”
At a donation table during the tournament, orange Frisbees were sold for $10, next to baked goods and a framed picture of the ultimate team for people to sign and write messages. Neon bracelets were available for participants to take home with them. They read WWMD, shorthand for “What Would Meagan Do?”
Donations from the tournament raised over $3,600, team manager Tiffany Phan said. Donations will be split between developing the youth ultimate programs in Bellingham and a scholarship in Smith’s name, Phan said.
In addition to the funds collected during the tournament, a fundraising page called Spreading Meagan Smith’s Goodness was created on YouCaring, a website aimed at online fundraising for humanitarian causes.
The page, created by Smith’s parents, has raised nearly $24,800 for four different causes she was involved in, including Western’s Newman Catholic Campus Ministry.
Monica Smith Witt, Meagan’s aunt, was happy to see how many college students showed up to the tournament, Witt said.
“There were college kids from all walks of life. I think [youth] get a bad rap sometimes, but [they] shouldn’t because [their] hearts are open, [their] hearts are loving and that was obvious [at the tournament],” Witt said.
Lindsey Miller and Daniella Welsh, the coaches for Western’s first ulitmate B-team, Nyx, remember Smith as being a teachable, reliable player.
Smith had amazing throws, and grew as a player as the seasons progressed, Welsh said.
“She was really friendly and warm, but she wasn’t super loud,” Miller said. “But then she’d have an awesome one-liner and everyone just dies [of laughter] because it was perfectly timed, perfectly executed.”
Smith’s aunt, Theresa Smith Halzle, said Smith’s faith was a major part of who she was and she stayed involved with multiple religious schools and churches. Nine priests attended Smith’s funeral, a reflection of how involved Smith was, Halzle said.
Smith graduated in June 2015 with a comparative religions major and German minor, Witt said. She enjoyed studying cultures and beliefs different from her own, Witt said.
Nyx’s student captain Lena Gibbs considered Smith one of her best friends, and said she remembers Smith as always having been there when people needed her.
“If there was a rough day, or if a tournament was in bad weather, she never would get in a bad mood,” Gibbs said. “She’d still try to have the most fun out of it. ”
The tournament lasted until 9:30 p.m., with people joining and leaving the field throughout the night. The memorial tournament will become an annual event, Sturgis said.
“The world will be in good hands, but slightly less good hands without Meagan. She was unusually good,” Witt said.
Smith’s family and friends hope to gather stories of how she changed people’s lives, Halzle said.
“I’m really proud of the whole community and I know she’d be proud of it as well,” Sturgis said.