Heavy rains and thunderstorms brought a close to the 11th annual Connor Senn Memorial Match, held Tuesday night in Columbus, but that didn’t mean the spirit of the event was extinguished.
The game between the Ohio State men’s soccer team and the Columbus Crew – staged in memory of OSU player Connor Senn, who died of a heart defect after collapsing in a game in 2001 – ended with the Major League soccer side ahead 4-0 after just 30-plus minutes of play.
That slightly dampened – literally – the mood of the 1,072 in attendance, but the night was more about promoting soccer and raising money than it was the soccer.
“We’re very excited that we’re back with the Columbus Crew again,” OSU head coach John Bluem said. “I think that really adds to the game and to the local community. They’ve always been so great. Too bad the weather got in the way tonight because it was a beautiful turnout. There was a lot of people here and a lot of excitement about the new relationship with the Ross Heart Hospital. The game ended early and that’s too bad, but I think we generated a lot of good feeling.”
The Crew was back on the field after a one-year absence caused by the MLS labor agreement, and a lot of black and gold was in attendance among the scarlet shirts that bear the OSU slogan “Play Like Connor Today” on the back.
“I’m just glad we got it worked out, and I appreciate the Ohio State Medical Center for stepping forward to alleviate that situation,” Crew general manager Mark McCullers said. “It just wasn’t the same last year without the players on the field. But we’re always going to support this even. Cardiac health is one of the pillars of our foundation.”
Cole Grossman started the scoring a minute in when he took a pass from a streaking Aubrey Perry and scored. Bernardo Anor added a 20-yard shot and Emilio Renteria – often a Crew starter over the past few years – headed in a goal by the six-minute mark, and Grossman added a 35-yard blast into the lower left corner in the 27th minute.
Soon the skies opened, but the fans and players congregated on the concourse for autographs and pleasantries.
Even Justin Meram, a Crew forward who attended Michigan, got in on the action, promoting the contest on his Twitter account beforehand and then starting the game.
“I kind of took the Michigan out of me,” Meram said. “We do this for Connor. We just wanted to bring a good atmosphere here for all the fans and the family and everybody’s lives that he touched. It was good to be a part of it.”
Ohio State was represented on the field in black and gold as well by goalkeeper Matt Lampson, who starred for the Buckeyes the past two years before signing a contract with the Crew as a reserve.
The game is now not the only part of the Senn legacy. McCullers, Bluem and Crew defender Danny O’Rourke, a childhood friend of Senn, will speak at The Connor Senn Memorial Symposium on Sudden Cardiac Arrest, a new program devoted to the topic of sudden cardiac death, educating the medical community and the general public on the scope of the problem, sharing the latest advancements in diagnostic imaging and testing and promoting proper training in the interpretation of young adult electrocardiograms.
The symposium will take place from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Ohio Union next Tuesday and there is no fee for members of the community to attend.
“Hopefully that’s only the beginning,” Bluem said. “It’s the platform we’ve been looking for to tell the story of Connor, a tragic story about a young man, and there’s so many young athletes out there that suffer from sudden cardiac death and incidents like this. To spread the message and have the symposium like this where we’re educating people and to provide funding for the research to improve the fight against cardiac death is something we hope will expand from Columbus and from this relationship to other communities across the country and maybe worldwide some day.”