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[10] September 25, 2010

Jefferson boys tennis remains unbeaten with a pair of wins By CASEY OLSON

The Thomas Jefferson Raiders boys tennis team remained unbeaten in the South Puget Sound League Central Division with two more wins Monday and Tuesday. The Raiders (6-0) beat Auburn Riverside Monday, 4-1, and swept Beamer Tuesday, 5-0. Jefferson didn’t lose a set against Beamer and got singles wins from Brandyn Gomez and Tyler Hamashima. Against Auburn Riverside, TJ got victories from Kainoa Rosa at No. 1 singles and Brandyn Gomez and Alex Lee, Makoa Rosa and Cameron Sharpe and Andrey Streltsov and Connor Howard in doubles. The Decatur Gators swept a pair of SPSL 3A matches this week. The Gators beat Auburn Mountainview Tuesday, 4-1, and Enumclaw Wednesday, 3-2. Against Enumclaw, the two teams played an astounding four threeset matches with the Gators winning two. Decatur’s wins came from Abishak Murali at No. 1 singles, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, Christian Scognamiglio at No. 2, 6-1, 6-3 and Darrel Delvin and Peter An at No. 1 doubles, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.

For a complete recap of all the week’s prep action, see

Obungen: ‘I’m just lucky to be alive’ Beamer grad, UPS football player suffers severed spinal cord injury while diving into the ocean in Hawaii, but vows to walk again By CASEY OLSON

Corey Obungen had just accomplished what every teenager dreams about. The 2008 Todd Beamer High School graduate had recently finished his first year at the University of Puget Sound and just moved out of his parents’ Federal Way house. Obungen was also preparing for his second season on the Logger football team. The undersized, 5-foot-6, 150-pound defensive back played in five games his freshman year, totaling three tackles. Everything seemed to be rolling right along for Obungen, who snared 11 out of a possible 12 letters while at Beamer. But that newly-acquired independence didn’t last too long. “I had just moved into a house in Tacoma,” he said with a laugh. “I stole all my parents’ food and was on my own. I was very, very excited. Then I left for Hawaii.” It was that trip to the island paradise that would change Obungen’s life forever. Just two days after arriving on Oahu and watching his cousin’s graduation, Obungen went to Lanikai Beach with a couple of buddies from the University of Puget Sound football team. “I just went there to hang out with friends from UPS,” Obungen said. “We went to the beach. We were having a good time, doing nothing “I went from out of the ordinary.” being completely Obungen then did independent to fully something he had done dependent. Every a hundred times before. now and then I still have some dark days. He ran into the surf and dove into the ocean. But But then I think, this dive wasn’t like all ‘I’m young and I the other ones. Obungen, could have died.’ ” a Hawaiian native, didn’t Corey Obungen pop out of the water. “I hit the bottom kind of awkwardly,” he said. “The bottom looked deeper than it was.” During the dive, Obungen’s head landed perfectly on the bottom of the ocean and the fall broke his neck, shattering his C-5 vertebra and basically severing his spinal cord. The injuries left Obungen without any movement in his legs and very limited movement in his upper body. He now faced the likely possibility of never being able to walk again. “When I went down, I felt a big shock,” he said. “I couldn’t flail my arms and I was just hoping that somebody would pull me up. I knew right away that I broke my neck. Luckily, the guys on the team pulled me up before I drowned. “It was weird because the day before I was jumping off cliffs at a different beach. I was jumping off the rocks from 20 feet up.” In the three and a half months since the life-changing injury, Obungen has made some progress. Immediately following the accident, he was forced to stay in a Hawaiian hospital for three weeks until doctors deemed him healthy enough to fly back to Seattle. “I flew on a commercial flight in first class,” Obungen said. “I was in a neck brace and could hardly move my arms. I came to the airport on a

Beamer graduate Corey Obungen earned 11 letters during his tenure as a Titan, including a trip to the Mat Classic state wrestling tournament. He was a first-team, All-SPSL South defensive back and played as a freshman at UPS. file photo stretcher. It was pretty intense, but I made it.” Obungen wondered how he would make it After landing at SeaTac, Obungen was taken through. directly to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, “Being in the hospital and seeing myself in the where he spent the next five weeks in rehab mirror for the first time was tough,” he said. “I doing adaptive therapy for his injuries, which went from being really fit to having no function required the fusing of a massive metal cage over below my waist. I went from being completely four vertebras in his spine. The surgery, which independent to fully dependent. That kills you. also included having a cadaver bone inserted to Every now and then I still have some dark days. replace his shattered vertebra, was necessary to But then I think, ‘I’m still young and I could stabilize his neck. have died.’ I allow myself only to be mad for 10 “It’s actually pretty crazy when you think minutes or so.” about it,” he said. Obungen wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill athlete Obungen was initially bound to a power during his time at Beamer. He was selected as an wheelchair, All-City defensive “which is someback during his thing you never senior football seawant to be in,” he son after interceptsaid. He didn’t ing four passes for have any flection the Titans. He was in his wrists and also named firstcould barely lift team, All-South his arms. After Puget Sound two months of League South therapy, doctors Division by the moved Obunleague’s coaches. gen to a manual But football wheelchair. He wasn’t the only can now flex sport he excelled his wrist and at. Obungen was thumbs, and has a rare three-sport movement in his athlete. Obungen Corey Obungen (right) poses with former Seattle Seahawk Mac shoulders, biceps was a district Strong and his sister, Codie, at a recent fundraiser. courtesy photo and triceps. qualifier as a long “Things are jumper for the coming,” ObunBeamer track team gen said. “The one thing I didn’t like was that and wrestled at the Mat Classic state wrestling doctors don’t tell you much and they are kind of championships as a 130-pound senior. negative. But they will tell me that every spinal “I think being an athlete helped me,” Obungen cord injury is different. My goal is to walk again. said. “I have that notion of always pushing myCrazier things have happened.” self. I think that gives you an advantage. I think Doctors aren’t making any promises, in terms the wrestler mentality sets me apart.” of Obungen’s ability to walk or being totally Obungen has already accomplished one of independent in the future. But just being alive is his goals following the injury. He’s currently enough to keep him moving forward. enrolled in one class at UPS and on his way to “I’m just lucky to be alive. That’s what keeps getting his exercise science degree. The school is me going.” providing him a note taker. But that wasn’t always the case. Immediately “The school has taken care of everything and following the accident, there were days that [ more obungen page 11 ]

[ obungen from page 10 ] that feels really good,” Obungen said. “Seeing familiar faces on campus is awesome. It felt like I needed to be here.” Obungen was already planning on the exercise science degree before the accident, but he is even more passionate now about getting into the field. “Now that I’m injured, there are so many different kinds of therapy and exercise to help gain function back,” he said. “That is something I would really like to get into.” The University of Puget Sound is also hosting “Team Corey Day” during today’s (Sept. 25) home football game against Whittier. Proceeds from the game will be donated to the Corey Obungen Trust to help with medical costs, as well as his potential enrollment into Pushing Boundaries, a Redmond-based facility that offers people with spinal cord injuries a

place to go to become more independent. “Right now that place is doing amazing things,” Obungen said. Pushing Boundaries describes itself as a facility that preaches repetition. According to its mission statement, Pushing Boundaries “combats the inactivity that has traditionally been the ‘norm’ for those living with paralysis. New research shows that the more time a person is out of their chair and engaging in

aggressive, repetitive movement, the better the chance a person will have at recovering the most function.” Seattle University’s women’s soccer team has also jumped on board, thanks to Obungen’s old Beamer classmate Jordan Salisbury. Salisbury convinced Seattle U to donate a portion of their ticket sales to Obungen’s trust. Salisbury and

September 25, 2010 [11] the Redhawks play at home at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 26 against Sacramento State. “I just want to say thank you to everybody. I’m very lucky and very fortunate to have my mom around,” Obungen said about his mother, Shari, who is a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. “But also everybody in the Federal

Way community, Beamer and Sherwood Forest (Elementary). I just want to say thanks.” Tax-deductible donations can also be made to the Corey Obungen Supplemental Needs Trust at any Bank of America Branch or send to Bank of America, Corey Obungen Trust, 2100 SW 336th St., Federal Way, WA 98203.


Category 322: Best sports feature 1. Obungen: 'I'm just lucky to be alive'

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