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Unbreakable

Posted: Friday, June 04, 2010

Brittany Fenumiai isn't just a beast with a basketball in her hands, bombing away from all over the court.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Turns out, put a softball bat in her hands and it's bombs away all over again.

Alaska's reigning Gatorade Player of the Year, who is looking for her third state softball championship in four years this weekend, is leading JDHS in nearly every major offensive category, batting .565 with five home runs, 33 RBIs and 26 runs scored from the third spot in the lineup. She's also 5-0 in five starts with a 0.00 ERA in 20 innings pitched with 16 strikeouts.

She's dominated hitters from the circle and put up ridiculous numbers at the plate for the Crimson Bears after overcoming injury after injury, and she's taken it all in stride.

"There's almost no place on her body that she hasn't had an injury," JDHS manager Dave Massey said, only half joking. "But the interesting thing about her is that she's a quick healer and she keeps coming back. Nothing slows down her will, her drive or her desire. She's a tough kid. I can't imagine any tougher."

Fenumiai has had five surgeries since the seventh grade. Five.

She's had the ACL in each knee replaced, along with cartilage-tear fixes and repairs to each medial meniscus, and her right shoulder -er pitching arm - rebuilt two years ago after tearing her labrum.

Her latest knee surgery came early in the 2010 basketball season, but did it slow her down?

Hardly.

After missing a couple of weeks, she went on to lead the Crimson Bears to the 4A state championship while garnering First Team All-State honors.

"It's my passion and my drive to keep playing," Fenumiai explained. "I don't feel like anything could ever make me stop because I love it so much."

Fenumiai said she was never discouraged, no matter how many times she found herself back on the shelf.

"It's more like a way to work harder, to make sure your body is stronger to make sure it doesn't happen again. But, with my luck, it did," she said. "Even though I wasn't playing, I still felt like I was part of my team.

"One of my roles is to give encouragement and positive feedback to my teammates to keep them going," she continued. "Just seeing them playing and having fun makes me happy."

Fenumiai credits her parents, Al and Gail, with her unbreakable will to compete.

"Both of my parents always told me to never give up on anything that I wanted to do," she said. "So I don't let any of my injuries stop me. I just act like nothing's happened and play as if I've never gotten hurt, and try not to make excuses."

Fenumiai has competed in just about every sport a girl can: softball, volleyball, basketball, gymnastics and soccer. She also played a sport you don't see a lot of girls try: Football.

"She was a linebacker and a fullback, and she used to knock the snot out of a lot of the local little boys," Massey chuckled. "And she might still be capable of it."

"I forgot about football," Fenumiai laughed. "I used to go with my dad to practice, basically like in the movie 'Remember the Titans,' where the coach's daughter is always at practice with him. I just loved being around it.

"Football just seemed like a lot of fun when I was around my dad, and I finally convinced him to let me play," she continued. "I made All-Stars and got MVP at the All-Star tournament, so I really enjoyed it."

Even though all of her injuries have come while playing basketball, it's still her favorite sport.

"I love basketball the most, but I love softball, too, because of the girls - my teammates I've had for so long - and my coaches," she said. "I enjoy it because of them."

Because of that sentiment, it's no surprise her teammates look up to her, though she prefers to lead by example.

"She hustles and you don't have to motivate her. She's always going," Massey said. "She fetches gear like she's a freshman and we always have to say, 'Somebody else besides Brittany carry a bag.' That's just part of her personality. She's a lot of fun to have on a team."

Fenumiai, though, is always quick to defer credit.

"There have been plenty of other girls before me who have done great things and who have been leaders," she said. "To be able to be a leader for these girls on the basketball court and on the softball field, it means a lot. It's just a good feeling to know that someone respects you."

Respect and friendship is what competing is all about to Fenumiai.

"Sports take my mind off of things," she said. "And you get friendships out of it, you learn life lessons and you learn a lot about yourself as well. And, most importantly, you learn to respect other people. I've learned to never give up, to always respect people, and to always know there are bigger things in life than yourself."

It's those reasons exactly why few have earned the respect Fenumiai has.

And, after all, she is unbreakable.



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