Katie MacMahon’s smile often shined as bright as she did for Kettle Run’s field hockey and girls lacrosse teams.

That undeniable zest for life, combined with her uncanny ability to defend in two sports, made her the Fauquier Times 2018 Kettle Run Girls Athlete of the Year.

“On the field you don’t want to get in her way, but at practice and in school she likes to have fun,” Kettle Run lacrosse coach Joanie DeGoosh said. “Always worked hard, but she has fun doing it. She is one of the girls I am going to miss having around because she is just fun.”

The daughter of a coach, MacMahon started playing lacrosse at early age, even throwing balls to the family’s dogs.

“On my dad’s side of the family everyone played lacrosse, so growing up we always had a stick in our hands,” said MacMahon, who was the 2018 Class 4 Region B Defensive Player of the Year. “I played a lot of sports when I was little, but stuck with lacrosse. It was more fun.”

She added a second stick-sport after some parental nudging. She chose field hockey over cross country after her father asked that she play a fall sport.

“I didn’t like running without a purpose,” MacMahon said, laughing. “That got me into field hockey.”

Although she had offensive skills in lacrosse, MacMahon found a place in both sports as a defender. She even served as the field hockey team’s defensive captain.

“I always thought I was going to play offense, but when high school came around they realized in field hockey that I actually had more of a defensive mindset,” she said. “When lacrosse came around we needed more defenders and … I figured I would do it again for the team.”

DeGoosh said, “Katie is a very strong defender and can play anywhere. … She can get the ball and go from one end of the field to the other.

“She accepted that role as a leader on defense and the knowledge she has shared with the younger girls has been tremendous,” the coach said. “She can relay messages differently from the way myself or other coaches can say it. It helped make everybody stronger.”

Because of her advanced skills, MacMahon’s coaches gave her permission to play freely.

“She is really athletic,” Cougars field hockey coach Elizabeth Todd said. “She surprises you because she seems very relaxed and calm, but then she will sneak in a jab and steal the ball.

“I wouldn’t teach my other players to do what she does because they couldn’t,” Todd said.

Kettle Run’s coaches also praised MacMahon’s leadership. Plus, her personality helped the Cougars jell.

A connoisseur of film, particularly comedy, MacMahon always took it upon herself to spread laughter throughout the tight knit group of Kettle Run athletes.

“Katie is really easy going and doesn’t let things get her down,” Todd said. “She is funny and keeps everybody up. When everyone is having a good time, everybody wants to be there, and Katie makes that happen.”

Bumps in the road

It wasn’t always easy to smile for Katie MacMahon.

The unexpected and tragic loss of her older brother, Jamie, 18, during the fall of her junior year in 2016, brought uncertainty to her athletic career. As did her father’s cancer diagnosis during her senior year lacrosse season.

Her brother passed away on a Tuesday, but she still decided to attend Kettle Run’s field hockey game two days later, MacMahon said.

“I realized if I was sitting home alone I wasn’t accomplishing anything,” she said. “When I went to the field and got the hugs it felt a lot better.

“I was questioning if it was going to be my last year of sports,” she said. “I decided that I deserved to have fun and stuck with it. … It brought a family together.”

So MacMahon channeled her life experiences in a positive way.

“I think I had the ability to lead to start with, but after the tragedy I think it came out more,” MacMahon said. “I really wanted to help people and didn’t want anyone to ever feel alone.

“I’d make sure to help anyone that was having a bad day,” she said. “We really bonded as a team and I will be friends with these girls for the rest of my life.”

MacMahon provided friendship and advice to some freshmen. Teammate Haley Van Voorhis later praised MacMahon in a team meeting.

“I knew Haley needed help getting out there and communicating,” MacMahon said. “So I reached out to her in the halls and everywhere to say ‘Hi.’ To make her have a conversation and help her come out of her shell.”

Her father, Steve, is now recovering from cancer, which may change MacMahon’s college plans. She is considering Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) after her father’s illness made her lean towards Roanoke College because the school is closer to home. But her father’s recent recovery brought SCAD back into the mix.

“I love film,” MacMahon said. “My dad, who has been a great influence in my life, did act for a bit.”

Steve MacMahon had some roles in commercials and was a movie extra.

“I thought the stories were so cool,” his daughter said. “I just love watching TV shows that make me laugh. I want to make other people laugh and be happy.”

She is also interested in college playing lacrosse.

“Katie can survive anything, and whatever Katie sets her mind to she can accomplish,” DeGoosh said. “She is a strong young lady and yet very grounded.”

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