July 12, 2006 - It was supposed to be a joyous day, one of the happiest of their young lives.

Instead, it was a gut-wrenching day for friends and family as Valerie McGregor and Sam Zawada were laid to rest on July 7, at Foothills Community Church - one day before they were to be married in the very same church.

What should have been a small family wedding between the former Mountain View High School lovebirds turned into an outpouring of grief for the loss of McGregor and Zawada, who were killed on July 2 near Wagon Mound, N.M. when their car skid and rolled over on the highway. Sam was 23, Valerie two years younger.

We're told at an early age that sports are an insignificant speck in the grand scheme of life, a diversionary tactic good only for entertainment. It wasn't necessarily who they were, yet for Sam and Valerie, sports were very much a unifier and a major part of both their lives.

Emily McGregor beat her twin sister Valerie out of the womb by nine minutes and the two never stopped competing, whether it was gymnastics, cross country, or for the attention (if not the domination, intimidation and/or inspiration) of the boys.

It didn't take long for the girls' father, Lyle, to realize they were just toying with him when the three of them would go out for a run. He realized his girls had a special gift and encouraged them to nurture it to its fullest.

The two went on to dominate high school long distance running for all four years for Mountain View, routinely swapping regional cross country titles.

Her senior year - the same year she met Sam - Valerie ran away with the state title in cross country, earning herself a scholarship to Colorado State University. Her sister Emily also ran for CSU before returning to Tucson to take over as captain of the University of Arizona cross country team.

Up until then, the two sisters had been inseparable. At Mountain View, they were as popular as they were fast on the track. Valerie was the president of their senior class, while Emily was vice-president.

They may have been the most honest set of twins as well. Emily admits they only pulled the switch once for a class at Mountain View. The students, of course, knew. The only way to tell them apart was to look at their hair; Valerie always kept hers a little bit longer.

Even though they were fraternal twins, the sisters - with their straight blonde hair and blue eyes - once took second place at a national twins look-alike contest in Pennsylvania.

The very first time she was at the Zawada house, Valerie held her own playing basketball, frustrating the boys by out-running and out-gunning them. The two weren't dating yet, but the competitive and romantic fire was lit.

After all, sports were a major part of Sam's life as well.

Legend has it, Sam's mother was able to take him home an hour after she gave birth. Apparently, Sam was eager to jump into life.

His friends describe him as a sports fanatic, in love with the teams from the Windy City. For evidence of that look no further than the Cubs pennant he'll be buried with.

He was only two and too young to remember his soon-to-be beloved Bears win a Super Bowl in 1985. He did get to share in the suffering of thousands of fellow Cubs fans, however, who absorbed one devastating loss after another.

On the field, Sam loved to play baseball, basketball and just about any other kind of athletics.

But, he was just as passionate about his music as he was about his sports. Together he and his friends formed a punk rock band they called the Drat Pack, a play on Rat Pack and the Denny's Restaurant where they routinely hung out.

He could master an instrument on the fly, once learning to play the drums for his church band in less than two weeks. That was Sam, a punk rocker with a Christian rock-and-roll soul.

His music took him to the University of Colorado at Denver where he studied music technology and got to be close to Valerie.

Sports helped bring them together and their gentle, kind-heartedness made it easy for them to fall in love with each other.

On July 7, Valerie and Sam were laid to rest in the church where they should have had the wedding rehearsal that night. It was supposed to be a happy day.

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