CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Despite ripping tendons in his arm, Ben McQuown never lost faith that he will recover and play sports again. Last year he played quarterback for Waianae; this season, it's baseball. CLICK FOR LARGE
McQuown does it with determination
The Waianae pitcher is in top form after fighting back from injury
BEN McQuown's high school career began, and nearly ended, with a shredded elbow.
The first reaction he encountered after dislocating his right elbow in a Pop Warner game his freshman year was disbelief.
"Oh my goodness what happened to you?" his father, John McQuown, asked.
The next words Ben McQuown heard were from doctors who performed his surgery, telling him he would never be able to play sports again. He kept hearing those words over and over from family, friends and practically everyone who saw his damaged elbow.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ben McQuown, who is almost fully recovered from a serious elbow injury to his throwing arm, is a top pitcher and hitter for Waianae. He's also the football team's starting quarterback. CLICK FOR LARGE
"My arm was snapped back over my head and most of the tendons in my arm got ripped," said McQuown, who played quarterback for Waianae last fall and is a pitcher for the Seariders this spring.
He recalled that the injury happened when "I was rolling out to throw a pass and a player came from the back side. Then right before I was about to release the ball he hit my arm."
But deep within his heart McQuown developed a determination and desire to get back to playing competitive sports.
"I just stayed with it. I wanted to get back on the field, so I didn't listen to what people were saying," McQuown said.
"My dad helped me a lot by taking me to rehab every Tuesday. I stayed motivated and my arm kept getting stronger every year. It's almost back to 100 percent, but it's not 100 percent yet. Pretty soon I hope to be fully recovered," McQuown said.
Today, after months of rehabbing and evolving his skills, McQuown is one of the best high school performers on Oahu. And his key weapon is his right elbow.
McQuown, a 17-year-old junior, is the ace pitcher on Waianae's baseball team. In addition, he has hit three home runs and is one of the leading hitters for the Seariders, who are tied for second place in the Oahu Interscholastic Association West.
Last fall, McQuown led Waianae into the OIA Red championship game, where they lost 7-0 to eventual state champion Kahuku.
McQuown says nearly everyone had given up on the idea of him ever playing competitive sports again, and he concedes he had doubts.
"I had a cast on for almost three months" McQuown said. "On top of that I had to sit and watch others play. I saw how good they were playing and figured I could never be that good. All I knew at that time was I wanted to play, too. It was hard because I could barely bend my arm. I thought it would be impossible for me to play again. I had problems concentrating on school and my grades went down.
"Once I started going to (physical) rehab, my therapist (Pat Ariki) really took the time to work with me and slowly I began to get better. That's when I knew I had a chance to play again."
Ariki, staff physical therapist at Sportsmedicine Hawaii Ltd., credits McQuown with having the strength to work hard away from the bright lights.
"Many of my patients have had to overcome serious injuries like Ben. He worked extremely hard in his recovery," said Ariki. "Very few injuries that happen to high school athletes are career ending. But when surgery is involved it is important to get physical therapy in order to have a reasonable chance of recovery."
McQuown's determination surprised a lot of people, including those who know him best.
"We have played together since our Pop Warner days," said Will Duseigner, who was McQuown's lead blocker on the offensive line during football season and is the baseball team's second-leading hitter. "I really believed he would never play again, but I told him almost every time I saw him to come play for Waianae. Then one day I saw him out there and I was surprised."
McQuown's coaches spoke highly of his willingness to fight through his injury and become a top competitor.
"It was just amazing that he was able to redirect his life from unable to participate into becoming a major player for our school. And by doing so, his work in the classroom has also improved," football coach Daniel Matsumoto said.
Baseball coach Kekoa Kaluhiokalani added that "Ben has tremendous mental toughness and it's not a big surprise to see Ben play as well as he has."
McQuown says he will continue to work hard on improving his skills, but emphasized that despite his personal achievements, his biggest goal is to win championships.