Jackson senior simply happy to be here

  • Mike Cane<br>For the Enterprise
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 12:03pm

On the first day of softball tryouts in late February, Jenna Mohrweis zoomed around as if her spot on the team was uncertain.

During an outfielder drill, the Jackson High School senior charged, dove headfirst and made a stellar catch of a sinking line drive.

Such catches are exciting but not all that rare, especially for a player of Mohrweis’ caliber. But this particular grab was among the biggest of her life. Sure, it happened in practice. Not many people saw it. Victory and defeat were not at stake.

But to fully understand the significance, rewind to late October. Mohrweis was in Florida with her select softball team, Lake Breeze Gold of Lake Stevens. Playing outfield in her team’s first game at the prestigious Rising Stars Fall Showcase, Mohrweis endured a life-changing moment.

She charged a liner and dove, just as she had done hundreds of times before. But this time she slightly misplayed the ball. It zipped over her glove and into her stomach. Almost simultaneously, she fell onto the ball, increasing the amount of force inflicted on her belly.

“At first it kind of felt like a really bad sideache,” Mohrweis said, “and I so I got up and I was like, ‘I’m OK.’”

She finished the game and played another one that day. During a midday break before Lake Breeze was scheduled to play twice more, Mohrweis and the team returned to their hotel. Things quickly took a turn for the worse.

“As soon as I stopped playing and stopped moving (the pain) really set in,” said Mohrweis, known for her high pain tolerance and all-out style of play. Mohrweis, who once dislocated two fingers and shrugged it off to keep playing, couldn’t ignore this injury. She curled up in a ball on her hotel bed and didn’t move.

One of her roommates, Miranda Rosebrook of Marysville-Pilchuck High, realized something was terribly wrong. She alerted Lake Breeze coach Margo Leiter. (Mohrweis’ parents did not go on the trip.) Once Leiter recognized the severity of the situation, she called for help. In more agony by the second, Mohrweis was rushed to Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.

“It brought tears to your eyes seeing the way she was,” Leiter said.

Mohrweis arrived just in time. It turns out that she suffered a bowel rupture: The impact of her outfield dive created a quarter-sized hole in her intestine. As a result, many organs were contaminated and in serious risk of failing. She underwent a 2.5-hour surgery in which doctors removed her appendix and part of her colon, and meticulously cleaned other contaminated organs.

The scariest part, said Ashley Todd, Mohrweis’ teammate on Lake Breeze and at Jackson High, “was that if we had waited like an hour longer to take her to the hospital, she probably wouldn’t have made it.”

Mohrweis spent 10 days at the hospital, five in intensive care. Doctors were shocked when they heard how the bowel injury occurred. They told Mohrweis she was more likely to get struck by lightning. They also said she wouldn’t play softball again for at least nine months, if at all.

Yet there she was on the first day of tryouts, running and diving with the same intensity she’s always had. The incision that extends from just below her rib cage to beneath her belly button healed properly. Her organs were OK. She was back doing what she loved, merely four months after a startling setback.

Mohrweis said she initially had doubts about how she’d bounce back. The doubts were fleeting. “As soon as I got back on the field, it didn’t even faze me,” said Mohrweis, a Jackson co-captain who plays second base and bats leadoff.

The speedy senior is batting .463 and has scored a team-high 19 runs for Jackson, which leads the Western Conference South Division with a near-perfect record of 14-1 (17-2 overall). On the exterior, Mohrweis shows no hesitation. In a game against Mariner, she fielded a grounder and threw to first base to record the first out. She led off the bottom of the first inning with a single, stole second base with a headfirst slide, went to third on a groundout and scored on a double.

Just like that, it was 1-0.

“She’s kind of gotten over that fear of hurting herself again. That’s awesome,” Todd said before the game.

Mohrweis’ rapid recovery didn’t surprise Jackson coach Mike Moran. “She has, obviously, a burning desire to succeed. Her passion for the game is unmatched,” said Moran. “She loves the game — she loves to play it (and) she loves to compete.”

Clearly, Mohrweis is an impact player. She accepted a scholarship to play for Western Washington University after she’s done at Jackson.

“I’m ready for college and to finish my (prep) season and go out with a bang,” said Mohrweis, who will likely play outfield for WWU.

For now, she’s determined to help Jackson to advance to the state tournament.

At every practice and every game she wears a reminder of what she overcame. It’s a pink armband with a No. 2 on it (her Lake Breeze uniform number). Her Lake Breeze teammates made the armbands after her injury and wore them in her honor.

The thoughtful gesture still inspires Mohrweis.

“Their support,” she said, “was the motivation for me to fight through it and not to give up.”

Mike Cane writes for The Herald in Everett.

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