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HS football player collapses during game, dies

10/7/2006

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A 17-year-old Harrison High
School football player who died shortly after collapsing during a
game had a heart condition, El Paso County Deputy Coroner Dawn
Miller said Saturday.

Fermin Vialpando collapsed during the third quarter and died on
the field Friday night, Miller said in a telephone interview. She
said he had a heart condition but further testing would be needed
to determine the exact cause of death.

The teen's mother, Sundae Vialpando, told The Denver Post her
son had no known health problems. "Doctors said sometimes with an
athlete -- it puts a strain on their heart," she said.

Players, coaches and students met at the school Saturday
morning. "We needed to talk about what happened. Everybody liked
him. He was a nice person to talk to," athletic director Dave
Hogan told The Post. The school canceled its homecoming dance
Saturday and held a vigil on the football field.

"I'm having a tough time right now and I'm trying to deal with
a whole lot of kids in grief," Harrison coach Shawn Mitchell told
The Gazette.

The center on Harrison's offensive line, Vialpando was about
6-foot-1 and 210 pounds.

Vialpando tried to call a huddle just before he collapsed, said
Harrison cornerback Miki Eltagonde. "He was running down the field
and he just stopped and fell. He tried getting up and then fell
back again and it happened again."

Offensive lineman Bryant Perryman yelled to coaches that
Vialpando was having a seizure. A team doctor was on the field
within a minute of Vialpando's collapsing, said Hogan.

Hogan and Mitchell also said they knew of no medical problems
concerning Vialpando.

"Fermin did everything that was asked of him," Mitchell said.
"He was the ultimate team player and a great citizen in our
hallways. You wish you had a team full of kids like him."

Hogan told the Gazette on Friday: "Everybody's in shock. You see what you think is a healthy young person. It's a
hard thing," he said, choking back tears as he spoke to reporters
at Memorial Hospital.

"You get that sinking feeling in your chest when you've lost a
special person," Hogan said. "He meant so many things to so many
people. A good, young kid. He was quiet, had a great smile.
Everything you consider a good person, that was him."

Chris Valentine, public relations manager for Memorial Hospital,
said chaplains were called to help grieving players and friends.

"We didn't want anybody driving home alone," Valentine said.
"We wanted all students to go home with adults."

The Class 3A South Metro Conference game was stopped immediately
with Harrison ahead of Ridgeview Academy 40-15.

Vialpando, a first baseman on the baseball team and member of
the marching band, was also an aspiring chef. He was taking a
culinary class at Pikes Peak Community College and worked in The
Wyndham Hotel kitchen.

"His outlook on life was to dream big and go for it," Angela
Vialpando said about her nephew. "He was a real outgoing kid,
always on the go. He was quiet and shy sometimes around people he
didn't know very well. But around us he was a chatterbox."