A Fen-amily tradition

JDHS junior Brittany Fenumiai joins relatives past, present in starring role atop the Juneau hardwood, softball fields

Posted: Friday, January 30, 2009

If something looks familiar about the way JDHS junior Brittany Fenumiai pushes through defenders on the basketball court or zips across the softball base paths, you've probably just watched any sport in the vicinity of Juneau.

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Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Over the years, a steady stream of Brittany's family members have lent their imposing athleticism to JDHS and other local sports teams, setting high expectations for the newest member of the "Fen-amily".

The family estimates that at least 10 members of the Fenumiai clan have donned the crimson and black for JDHS teams in football, softball, basketball, track & field, and volleyball since the mid-1990s. Even now, Brittany's cousin Lawrence Fenumiai joins her as a Crimson Bear, playing for the varsity football and basketball teams at JDHS.

Another recent Fenumiai athlete included her 6-foot-1, 280-pound cousin Faifo Levale who graduated from his nose tackle position at JDHS last year and currently plays offensive tackle for Division I Weber State University in Utah. Levale had been the anchor of the defensive line for the Bears football teams that won state championships in 2005 and 2007.

Brittany's older sister, Nicole Fenumiai, also graduated in 2008 after a career on the varsity basketball, volleyball, and softball teams at JDHS. Despite playing two years together, the older sister still has one piece of hardware she can dangle over Brittany's head - JDHS' state basketball championship she helped win as a freshman in 2005. Nicole has also continued playing after high school, and is currently playing basketball at Washington's Yakima Valley Community College.

Standing at only 5-foot-7, Brittany might not fit into the shoes of her football-playing cousins or her 5-foot-11 sister. Her athletic ability has already shown, though, that good things can come in small packages - even in the Fenumiai family.

For the past two years, Brittany has shined as a two-sport athlete for the JDHS Crimson Bears in softball and basketball. She made the varsity squad in both sports as a freshman and, by her sophomore season, she already ripped off the fastest pitch on her softball team. That potential came to fruition in the 2008 state softball title game, when she allowed just one hit and struck out six batters, leading the Crimson Bears to their sixth state championship.

Despite her individual success, Brittany readily admits that being able to watch her older sister has given her a leg up.

"My sister (Nicole) is a very hard worker and every day at practice she pushed herself and it made me want to do that, too," Brittany said.

During the offseason, Brittany continues to play basketball and travels with an Amateur Athletic Union team called Alaska Lady Hoops. Last summer, the team even traveled to tournaments in Arizona and Las Vegas, competing against some of the most talented female basketball players in the country.

This season, Brittany is a starting shooting guard for the JDHS girls and currently leads the team in scoring and rebounding.

"Brittany is our go-to player. In a critical situation we want her to take control of the ball ... we want her to take the shot," JDHS head coach Lesslie Knight said. "She loves to take the last second shot. When she was freshman we put her into the state championship game ... to possibly take the last second shot."

Unfortunately, Brittany missed several games earlier this season for JDHS with a torn ACL. A quick return, though, brought her back for last weekend's games against North Pole. Showing no rust, she scored 19 points on Friday and tacked on 15 more Saturday.

"When I play I don't worry about scoring. I just worry about our team getting better and our team winning," Brittany said after the games.

Backing up her star's point, Knight added that, aside from scoring, Brittany also leads the team in steals and excels as a passer.

"She reads the floor offensively and defensively," Knight said. "Besides relying on her shooting, we rely pretty heavily on her passing."

As the title student-athlete suggests, Brittany plays the school game as well. In fact, she earned a 3.6 GPA during her sophomore year.

Brittany said that she would like to play even more sports, but her parents have set the limit at two this year so that she would have more time for academics.

"Its hard to have enough time to focus properly on all your sports and still maintain good academics in school," Gail Fenumiai, Brittany's mother said. "Our number one priority is for our kids to get a good education and keep their grades up."

The limit has worked so well, that Brittany is even considering studying medicine when she graduates, but is yet unsure of where she might attend college.

Luckily for the Bears, she's not going anywhere for one more season.

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