PALO ALTO, Calif. (KTXL) — USA forward Sophia Smith’s celebration in her first World Cup game was in homage to the life of her college teammate, Katie Meyer, who died by suicide in 2022.
Meyer was a standout goalie at Stanford who was known for her fiery style which was on full display in the 2019 national title game that ended in penalty kicks.
With her performance in the shootout, Katie helped the Cardinals win their third national title, and she capped it off with her signature celebration.
“I think it’s something that’s really important to me and (Sophia Smith),” USWNT defender and former Cardinal Naomi Girma said.
“We did a celebration like that, which was our friend Katie’s go-to. We said if one of us scored, probably her, that we would do that. It’s just another way of us honoring her.”
“The Player’s Tribune piece and a lot of players just speaking out on mental health, I think we see this as an opportunity to shed a light on a lot of things that are important to us. I think that’s been something that’s at the core of this team for so long, and for us to come in now and carry on that legacy, that’s something that’s really important to us,” Girma continued.
“It’s overwhelming, it’s humbling,” Steve Meyer, Katie’s dad, said. “Katie, obviously, would be touched. Naomi’s piece that she wrote was a beautiful piece about a beautiful friendship written by a beautiful person inside and out. Naomi Girma is a special human being.”
At Meyer’s memorial service, Girma recounted a story about Katie’s support during rehab from an injury.
“In February of 2021, I was three months out from a torn ACL,” Girma said at the memorial. “I was getting close to finally being able to run again. Each student-athlete had a badge that we would wear around campus to verify we would get our Covid screening, and Katie decided that the way to enter the physical therapy building was to write the ultimate stamp of approval on the back of her card: Naomi’s best friend.”
“Surprisingly, they didn’t let her in, but she stood outside the window with her face pressed against the glass and watched me run three sets of four minutes at a jogging pace with the biggest smile on her face,” Girma said.
Steve Meyer looks back on that story now and sees the roles reversed, with Katie’s former teammates now standing by and supporting her.
“The crux of the story that Naomi wrote was Katie standing at the window for her when Naomi was hurt, and in my view, Naomi and the rest of the team are now standing at the window for Katie,” Steve said.
“It’s what they’re doing off the field,” Gina Meyer, Katie’s mom, said. “It’s how they carry themselves off the field. This team, they’ve always fought for equal pay, things being fair, any injustices and now they’re stepping up to talk about mental health, they are really trying to make a difference.”
Since the passing of their daughter, Steve and Gina have created the Katie’s Save Foundation – a proposed university initiative to help prevent campus suicides.
“I think for us, it’s finding purpose in our daughter’s tragedy and it’s trying to make a difference and strength to kind of go forward with this,” Gina said. “It’d be really easy to curl up in the corner and put the shades down and just cry in bed all day.”
“And that would be okay,” Steve added.
“And that would be okay,” Gina echoed. “Because we have those days, but we really feel strongly about moving forward with this.”
The policy would provide an emergency line of contact between the university and the student-chosen designated advocate, serving as a front-end safety net to help prevent another tragedy like Katie’s.
“Hopefully a student would never need Katie’s Save,” Steve said. “Go four years, five years and enjoy your college experience.”
“The hope is that all public California universities, so our UCs and our public Cal State’s would offer this,” Gina said.
“It really gives that advocate a chance at a conversation,” Steve added. “That’s the conversation Gina and I never got to have with Katie.”