Life lessons learned from the 19th Annual Kendra Payne Memorial Biathlon

21 year old Kendra Payne, a 2002 graduate of SAS, was struck by an asphalt truck and killed on Jan. 11, 2006, while participating in a University of Southern California Beaufort triathlon team training ride. Kendra was not only a dedicated athlete and world traveler, but a role model student. Her time at SAS proved to be memorable and inspiring. SAS athletic director Mimi Molchan remembers Payne as being a person who knew how to “embrace the younger athletes and truly embodied the Eagle Way,” long before the SAS athletic department’s motto was created.

Photo Courtesy of Mei Liu.
Varsity swim team boys gather to cheer and count laps for the girl swimmers, who participated first.

As a student at SAS, she was captain for both her swimming and track and field teams. As college student, Payne combined her love of swimming and running by participating in triathlons.

She was a fierce competitor in and out of the pool. At SAS, she was awarded annually for her participation in the varsity swim team’s biathlon. After Payne’s tragic death in 2006, SAS designated this event as the Kendra Payne Memorial Biathlon. Each December, Singapore American School’s varsity swimmers gather to swim the 1,000 meters and run the two kilometer course.

This year, the 19th Annual Kendra Payne Memorial Biathlon proved to be an exhausting but memorable event for both swimmers, coaches, principals, and parents who attended. Warm up started at 7:30 a.m. sharp in order to have the girls begin the course promptly at 8:05 a.m.

Timing was important for this event because of the many activities happening on SAS’s campus during the weekend. Due to the large baseball tournament, the regular two kilometer running course was changed. Instead of running on the turf field, athletes ran more of the course on the track. Surprisingly, the new course received positive feedback.

Captain and senior Elizabeth High felt that “the course was more direct which made it seem shorter and less tiring,” but others missed the old course because of its familiarity.

The girls completed the biathlon with freshman Meagan Clark finishing first, junior Caitlin Loi second, and sophomore Hadley Ackerman third. The girls were extremely close to each other during the swim but began to pull apart as they headed into the run. Clark – who was aiming for the record currently held by Loi – was only 12 seconds away, with an impressive time of 21:36.73.

Photo Courtesy of Mei Lui
Freshman Meagan Clark sprints to the finish line with a time of 21.36.73.

Third place finisher Ackerman felt the “run was much more difficult than the swim because swimmers are not used to running.”

Unfortunately, due to stormy weather, the boys completed only a fragment of the swim and were unable to finish the biathlon. Instead, they completed their biathlon during practice time on Tuesday. Sophomore Zach Goldwax placed third, followed by sophomore Vincent Liu in second, and Kenny Liu took first place with a time of 19.36.09.

Captain and first place finisher Liu agreed that “the course seemed shorter” but felt “it was still exhausting. It really doesn’t matter what the course is, we still experience the same excruciating pain.”

The event was completed with an award ceremony. But it wasn’t receiving awards that made the event so special, it was the speech from Molchan and Payne’s parents, Rick and Pat Payne, that was truly moving.

Molchan began the award ceremony by asking the swimmers to sit by their parents. Before the medals and certificates could be passed out, Molchan began her speech by reminding athletes to take the time to appreciate their parents. She said, “they are your biggest supporters” and it is “important to enjoy the time you have together.”

Photo Courtesy of Jim Loi.
First, second, and third place finishers pose for a photo with Pat and Rick Payne.

These relevant words hit home as she introduced Payne’s parents, who attend the annual biathlon almost every year to support their daughter’s legacy and remember the community that embraced her. Payne’s parents told the athletes that Kendra is always with them: “Wherever we go, she is always in our hearts.”

They proved that even with the loss of a child, the bond between parents and their children cannot be broken. Kendra may be gone, but her legacy remains.

Author: Mackenzie Hirsch

Mackenzie Hirsch is a Senior and a new addition to the Eye Staff this year. She is originally from Greensboro, North Carolina but has lived in Singapore for 5 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming for the SAS varsity team and traveling to new places.

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