More than half a decade after last taking the field for Shawnee girls lacrosse, Katie Kernan continues to serve as an inspiration.
Kernan was a standout defender for the Renegades during the early part of the decade, earning a first team all-conference selection as a junior in 2012. However, just prior to the start of her senior season in 2013, Kernan was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Though she was unable to play in her senior season, Kernan remained a huge part of the team. She attended as many games as she could and served as a leader and inspiration as the Renegades won the 2013 Group 4 state championship. On July 19, 2014, a little more than a year after graduating from Shawnee, Kernan lost her battle with brain cancer. She was 19 years old.
Over the past five years, Shawnee has made sure Kernan remains an important part of the program. Her impact could be seen last Thursday at the Renegades’ fifth annual Score Against Cancer game against Rancocas Valley. At this annual fundraising game, Shawnee sells T-shirts and donates the proceeds to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in honor of Kernan. In the first four years of the fundraiser, the team has raised more than $12,000.
The back of the T-shirts was adorned with the number Kernan wore as a player, 22. The number has taken on a huge significance at Shawnee. Each of the past five seasons, the Shawnee coaching staff has selected a player whose characteristics best resemble Kernan’s to wear No. 22. This year, senior Meredith Farley was selected to wear Kernan’s number.
“She’s been incredible this year,” head coach Julie McGrory said about Farley. “She’s definitely a team player. She always thinks about the team, about Shawnee. It’s also about having that heart, that courage and that bravery. She exemplifies that.”
“No. 22 is something that every girl who plays lacrosse in Medford wants to get,” Farley said. “It’s just awesome to be able to represent my team and my town for Katie and for everyone.”
The Farley family has a connection with the Kernan’s. Meredith’s older sister, 2015 graduate Caroline Farley, was the first player to wear No. 22 following Kernan’s passing and was close friends with Kernan. Meredith is friends with Katie Kernan’s younger brother, Patrick and said both families are close.
The Kernan family maintains a direct connection with the Shawnee girls lacrosse program. McGrory recognizes most of today’s Shawnee team never played with Kernan and feels it’s important to make her story known to everyone with the program.
“It’s something we talk about each year, because we are aware that a lot of these girls didn’t play with Katie at this point,” McGrory said. “We do a big team program dinner at the beginning of the year where we announce the No. 22 (player). Mrs. Kernan comes to that. She actually talks to the girls directly, which is amazing.”
“There’s some girls on the team that knew Katie, but not that many,” Farley added. “I think we keep her memory going by keeping her number alive and referring to her all the time. We play for Katie.”
Kernan didn’t just serve as an inspiration for the lacrosse team, but for the entire school and Medford community. The impact she left on Shawnee could be seen through the large crowd attending last Thursday’s game, with numerous people sporting the Score Against Cancer T-shirts.
Seeing so many people come out to the game and hearing McGrory discuss Kernan’s story to the crowd prior to the start of Thursday’s game had a positive impact on the players, according to Farley.
“It makes everyone want to play so much harder when we’re playing for the whole town and for everyone here,” she said.
Last Thursday’s game didn’t end the way Shawnee wanted, as the Renegades fell to Rancocas Valley, 13-7. However, some things are bigger than the final score and McGrory feels the Score Against Cancer fundraiser is one of them.
“It is a big community-type thing,” McGrory said. “Her younger brother is still here, we still keep in touch with the parents, coaches and teachers who had Katie are out here. It’s definitely something that brings the town and high school together. It’s bigger than lacrosse.”
Girls Lacrosse – Thank you to @RVRHS_Athletics for participating in our annual Katie Kernan Memorial Girls Lacrosse Game. Both teams wearing the #22-Katie’s number while playing at Shawnee! pic.twitter.com/JfuHkgp1pa
— Shawnee HS Athletics (@SHSRenegades) April 11, 2019