Sports Update

By Star-Bulletin Staff

Saturday, March 28, 1998

Shannon Smith
“I keep thinking that I'm going to wake up
and Shannon will be with us.”

-- Rosemary Smith

Shannon Smith’s death
‘still difficult to talk about’

It's been a year since the Rainbow kicker
drowned saving the son of UH
head coach Fred vonAppen

By Paul Arnett

Rosemary Smith remembers looking out the front window of her Kauai home at the cars going by on the distant highway.

Inwardly, she wondered why they hadn't pulled off the road. Why the world was still turning. Why life was going on around her as if nothing had happened.

Outwardly, she couldn't believe what Fred and Thea vonAppen were telling her. This was some kind of weird dream that she would eventually wake from. Her 20-year-old son hadn't drowned. He was alive and just down the hall in his room.

"Sometimes, I still feel that way, especially whenever I'm cooking," Rosemary Smith said Thursday as she and her husband, Norbert, prepared to go out for dinner.

"Shannon used to come through the doorway just off our kitchen whenever I cooked because he loved to eat. Sometimes, I catch myself looking in that doorway, expecting to see Shannon standing there. It's still like a dream to me. I keep thinking that I'm going to wake up and Shannon will be with us."

Sunday, it will be one year since Shannon Smith lost his life at Waipahee Slippery Slide seconds after he saved Cody vonAppen -- the youngest son of the UH head football coach -- from a deadly whirlpool.

The Smith family plans to spend part of Sunday at church and the rest of the first anniversary at Winners Camp, an organization that helped Shannon Smith during his formative years.

"This has been a very trying year for us," Rosemary Smith said. "Even when we were celebrating the wonderful things Shannon had accomplished, there were still very many difficult days.

"We didn't celebrate Christmas this year. Shannon wouldn't have wanted to if he had lived and one of his other brothers had died. That holiday was difficult.

"But I'm very concerned about these next couple of weeks. Not only do we have to get through the day he died, but his birthday is on April 1 and we still have to make it through Easter."

Shannon Smith drowned the day before Easter last year. Many of the people on the island of Kauai found out about his death through the different church services.

Newspaper and television reports quickly spread the next day as the Smiths and vonAppens painfully recalled what happened that Saturday during a hiking party.

Later in the week, the story went national as the two families appeared on the television magazine show "Inside Edition." ESPN also did a major piece on the day that changed the lives of the Smiths and vonAppens forever.

"I can't believe it has been a year," said Thea vonAppen, who could give birth to a new baby boy as early as this weekend. "It's still difficult to talk about. It's a day I'll never forget."

Ironically, it was a day Shannon Smith had looked forward to since the vonAppens had agreed to come over for the weekend to see the defunct tourist attraction.

For years, people have been discouraged from visiting the natural water slide because you have to go across private land to get there, but it's a spot still visited by the locals.

As the leader of the hiking party that included UH football players Tim Carey and Chris Shinnick, Smith got to the site first. He went down the slide by himself, then grabbed Cody for a second trip.

By then, the vonAppens had arrived at the picturesque location. Thea vonAppen was even able to take a picture of Shannon and Cody as they went over the falls.

The next two minutes were the most chaotic of Fred vonAppen's life as it became apparent that Cody and Shannon were in trouble. When the twosome finally emerged at the edge of the whirlpool created by heavy rains, everyone in the hiking party knew something was wrong.

The vonAppens jumped in, as did Carey, to attempt to get the pair out of harm's way. In the process of getting Cody safely ashore, Thea and Fred almost drowned. Eventually, Shannon Smith did.

Fred vonAppen was so moved by Smith's heroics, he helped a drive to have the new UH locker room named after the former place-kicker. The dedication took place last September.

The NCAA Award of Valor was given to the Smith family in January. It was the first time it had been awarded in 14 years. At the ceremony in Atlanta, the Smiths talked with former presidential candidate Bob Dole.

Dole was so moved by the incident, he sent the Smiths a letter two weeks later. Part of it read:

"His bravery set a standard that many would find difficult to match. His courage was more than we can measure. You and your family have my heart-felt respect and sympathy. Shannon has my greatest respect."

Smith also touched the hearts of young children trying to turn around their lives at Winners Camp. Tomorrow is the last day.

"I want to be there to sponsor a foster child, whose parents can't come," Rosemary Smith said. "It's so wonderful to hear children taking part in that camp, who once got nothing but failing grades, say what Shannon did helped turn their lives around. It has inspired them to do better in school.

"The Shannon Smith Memorial Winners Camp Scholarship still needs $14,000 to become a permanent $25,000 endowed scholarship. We need only $1,500 for the Shannon Smith Memorial UH Football Scholarship to also reach its permanent endowment. Through these scholarships, Shannon can live on. He always wanted to be able to help people. In this way, he still can."

No. 1 seed planted for Rainbows

Dusty Bergman staked his claim to regaining a berth in the University of Hawaii's starting rotation before 1,637 fans at Rainbow Stadium Friday night.

Making his first start since the San Diego State series, the 6-foot-4, 198-pound left-hander defeated Nebraska, 11-3, to assure the Rainbows of the top seed in today's semifinal round of the Rainbow Easter Tournament playoffs.

Hawaii (25-11 overall, 5-0 tournament) will send left-hander Randon Ho to the mound tonight against the University of Hawaii at Hilo and right-hander Tyler Yates. Lewis-Clark State and Nebraska meet in the other semifinal with the winners battling for the championship tomorrow.

Nebraska (11-8, 3-2) was not at full strength Friday night. Head coach Dave Van Horn suspended five players, including three starters, for one game for violating team rules.

Bergman, who allowed his frustration to outweigh common sense when he left the SDSU game resulting in a one-week suspension, was in command last night.

He started strong by striking out four of the first seven Cornhuskers and retired the side in order four times. When the Nebraska batters made adjustments at the plate and began putting the ball in play, the UH defense did its job.

Part of Bergman's success can be attributed to his junking a couple of pitches (curve and slider) that hadn't been working for him and adding the split-finger fastball.

"I felt pretty good, pretty smooth out there," Bergman said. "I was throwing a lot of strikes and the boys were playing good for me.

"I've only been throwing the split-finger for a couple of weeks. When they started catching up with the fastball I could throw the splitter for a strike out pitch."

Hawaii sweeps Stanford volleyball Cardinals

Three little words: Long Beach State.

Lest the Hawaii men's volleyball team feels the urge to take Stanford lightly in Saturday night's 7 p.m. rematch, the Rainbows need only to look back to Feb. 20. That's when the 49ers, left for dead after being swept two nights earlier, recovered quite nicely to defeat Hawaii, 3-1.

"I want to believe we learned a lesson from that," said Hawaii team captain Naveh Milo after the No. 4 Rainbows destroyed the sixth-ranked Cardinal, 15-8, 15-1, 15-7, in 96 minutes lFriday night at the Stan Sheriff Center. "Long Beach came back the second night very strong and beat us.

"We need to forget this game and come back strong again. It's a new match and, if we win it, we know it gives us first place in the division."

Actually, what it would give Hawaii is a 11/2-game cushion in the Pacific Division of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Last night's victory put the Rainbows a half-game ahead of the Cardinal in the fight for the important No. 1 seed in the division.

A crowd of 6,041 saw Hawaii (17-5, 11-3) hand the defending national champion its first straight-set loss of the season. The Rainbows dismantled the vaunted Cardinal block and potent offensive attack with a frustrating defense and multi-faceted attack that had four players in double-kill figures.

"Their defense was really scrappy," said Stanford freshman setter Josh Lukens. "We'd hammer it and the ball would somehow come back up. It was pretty frustrating at times."

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