Megan Powell, midfielder, Rising Sun (Md.)

One in an occasional series.

By Al Mattei


Seconds before the Maryland Class 2A field hockey championship, a figure, leaning on the green chain-link fence surrounding the Goucher College field, caught the attention of more than one of the members of the black-and-orange Rising Sun team.

In a state championship moment, it is unusual for a focused team to concentrate on anything else but the game and the opponent, much less somebody wearing other than the team's colors.

A couple of them made a point of trotting the sidelines, crossing the rubberized outdoor track, and giving the blue-clad teenager a hug.

Megan Powell almost certainly should have been with her team on that field during the Tigers' run towards the state championship they would share with Poolesville (Md.).

But she was suspended from the team for her part in an off-campus house party which involved police intervention.

We live in a time of "homeland security" which cannot prevent 200 Haitian boat people from invading a Miami freeway, and failed to recognize that publicity could catch a domestic terrorist in three hours when secrecy couldn't in three weeks.

We also live in a time where laws are written to execute the mentally ill, give life sentences to people who steal as little as $130, and where schools punish students for offenses not committed on their property.

Megan Powell almost certainly should have been on that field in November 2002, especially in an era athletes in other sports can take drugs, carry weapons, assault fans and spouses, and receive illegal gifts with seeming impunity.

Perhaps her teammates get it more than school administrators; after the game, one of her classmates came over and, individual trophy in hand, hugged Powell over the fence, whispering tearful words only teammates can share.

In that moment, the fence symbolized the separation between Powell and the rest of the team, but it also represented a reaching-out on the part of the Tigers, who tied with Poolesville 1-1 for the state title.

Powell had been a big part of not only Rising Sun's prominence in field hockey, but a big part of Cecil County's place as perhaps the most improved field hockey region in America the last five years.

The circumstances surrounding her class's final game were indeed unfortunate, and Powell learned a harsh lesson -- perhaps, given the licentiousness of other athletes, one which was too harsh.