Athletes play in remembrance of fallen friends

Addison Brady

While playing for a championship is the ultimate goal in sports, some Redwood athletes not only play for the success of their team, but to pay tribute to people who they were close to in the past.

Every time Emma McCarthy dives into the pool and Nate Flax steps onto the baseball field, they are remembering someone very important in their lives.

Swimmer Tribute

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McCarthy, junior, swims for Redwood weekly and is also on the North Bay Aquatics swim team. When she swims, she thinks about her close friend Theo St. Francis, who was the captain of the North Bay Aquatics swimming team for two years.

“Theo got into MIT for oceanic engineering,” McCarthy said.  “Last September, he dove into a wave at a beach near MIT, and no one knows what exactly happened, but he fractured his C6 in his cervical vertebrae and was paralyzed on all four limbs.”

St. Francis is now able to move his fingers and arms after spending a month and a half in the hospital.

St. Francis has a strong impact on McCarthy’s swimming.  According to McCarthy, she swims because it would make him happy to see her succeed at what she loves.

“I know what he’s doing is bigger than anything we’re doing, so it makes me more motivated to succeed,” she said. “I definitely swim for Theo and think about him every time I swim. He was and still is a big brother to me.”

McCarthy said that St. Francis’ injury had a severe impact on her team.

“I think I speak on behalf of the team when I say it was devastating for all of us,” she said. “I will remember Theo for always having such a positive and motivational personality towards everyone, so it was more of a turning point for my swimming when it happened.”

McCarthy and her team often ask each other “What would Theo do?” whenever someone is having a hard time.

“‘What would Theo do?’ is a phrase that we use throughout my swim team,” she said. “Basically when someone is complaining or struggling we say ‘WWTD’ to remind ourselves of what Theo has been through and overcome.”

Another Redwood junior, Nate Flax, plays for memory of one of his closest childhood friends. Alena, whose family wished for her last name to remain anonymous, was always a fan of Flax playing baseball.

“Alena was one of the first friends I ever had. Her and I grew up together starting from preschool,” Flax said. “She was killed in a car crash a couple years ago and died in her sister’s arms. She would be turning 18 this year but she doesn’t get to, so I honor her and play in remembrance for her.”

For Flax, the baseball field is somewhere where he can celebrate Alena’s life instead of death. Flax feels the baseball field makes it an appropriate time to reminisce about his dear friend.

“Baseball is a game of tradition, and I’ve made it a tradition to think about Alena when I’m getting my gear on before a game,” Flax said. “Alena deserves to have experiences that we are all lucky enough to have. The least I could do for her and her family is write on my hat for her to remind myself how lucky I am for just living.”