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Athlete a winner even in defeat

Andrew Hall battled more than just his opponent on May 12
By: Matt Long
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At 15 years old, all Andrew Hall sees is himself losing a match he feels he should have won, but it’s so much more than that. On May 12, Hall, a sophomore at Oak Ridge High, and his teammates on the tennis team played Granite Bay in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section team championships with the winner advancing to the next round and the loser going home. It was the team’s biggest match of the season against one of their toughest opponents. Hall, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of seven, woke up not feeling well, but soldiered on with his morning and went to school. When he checked his blood sugar mid-morning, it was at 500, nearly five times above normal, and he called his mom, Cheryl, to come pick him up.” As it turns out, apparently some time during the middle of the night, the tube connected to Hall’s insulin pump, which provides him the hormone that his body doesn’t produce naturally — hence, Type I diabetes – became disconnected, sending his blood sugar level sky high. “When that happens I get really nauseous and thirsty and sometimes I throw up,” Hall said. “It’s usually pretty bad.” Since he was diagnosed with diabetes, Hall said his pump has become disconnected two or three times. Unfortunately for him, it happened the day of the biggest tennis match of the season. Had it occurred during the regular season, Hall said he would not have played and probably wouldn’t have returned to school, but this was the playoffs. “When we got home about 10 a.m. his blood sugar was at 560,” Cheryl said. “We changed his site (where catheter is inserted in his body) and he began getting insulin again. “About 12:30 it hit me that he’s got to be in school for a certain amount of time or he wouldn’t be allowed to play.” That decision, of course, was Hall’s. “My mom would have done whatever I wanted,” he said. “I definitely didn’t want to miss the match. Our team was already one player down and I didn’t want to makes us two players down.” By the time Hall returned to school, his blood sugar was down to about 250 and he was feeling better, but still nowhere near normal. He said that he usually starts feeling bad when his blood sugar reaches 250 and that’s where it was. When the match started in mid-afternoon, Hall didn’t feel much better than he did when he returned to school. His play showed it too, as he lost the first set to Kyle Pgwlak, 6-2. “I felt sick and I was nauseous and not near 100 percent, but I was OK,” Hall said. Hall said he started feeling slightly better by the time the second set came around and again, it showed in his play as he turned the tables on Pgwlak and won the set, 6-2. “I was moving my feet more and just being more active,” Hall said of his improved play. Unfortunately, Hall’s condition took a turn for the worse in the third set, as he felt worse the longer the match continued. On two occasions, Hall was a mere point from winning, but couldn’t finish the match. A little while later he was up in the tiebreaker 3-0, just four points from the win, but again, the victory slipped away. "I was really tired, just exhausted,” Hall said. “I definitely wasn’t moving like I was in the second set. When I got close to winning, I was just thinking I’ve got to finish this match because I’m not going to last much longer.” Making matters a bit worse for Hall was the fact that the Trojans and Grizzlies were tied at four with only his match remaining. Whoever won the match, their team would move on in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Hall lost the final set 7-6 and the tiebreaker, 7-3. "I was really disappointed that I lost the match after being so close to winning,” Hall said. “I would have been a lot happier, even though I felt terrible, if I had won.” Hall felt responsible for his team losing the match, but his coaches and teammates didn’t feel that way. “Andrew wasn’t himself and in the third set he just physically faded,” Oak Ridge coach Pat Ryan said. “He put up a valiant effort and never quit. To me it’s not a story about losing; it’s a story about not giving up.” Dusty Davis, a senior teammate of Hall’s, was impressed by his effort. “I think it was a great thing that he did,” Davis said. “I probably would have wimped out and stayed home, but he wanted to help the team. I don’t know how he did it, because playing three sets takes a lot out of you.” There’s a happy ending to this story. Three days later, Hall teamed with Davis and the two won the Sac-Joaquin Section doubles championship, which felt good in more ways than one for Hall. “I felt like that I redeemed myself when we won the doubles title,” Hall said. Assistant coach Steve Seely, who stayed with Hall throughout his match against Granite Bay providing encouragement, was moved by what he saw, even putting his thoughts on paper when he got home. “Andrew gave everything he had but lost,” Seely wrote. “It just goes to show that winning isn’t always about the scoreboard. Andrew’s nickname is diabetes and I never really understood why he liked the name and always cringed when it was used. I learned that the nickname is an act of defiance. It’s like Andrew saying, ‘You might beat me, but my illness won’t. “Sometimes games are more than just games. Thanks, Andrew, for showing me that.”