Water polo players rescue teammate from drowning

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comSeptember 14, 2012 

Antemio Cortes was present for the biggest heroics of Pacheco High's water polo season to date, but he doesn't remember any of it.

That's because he was unconscious when teammate Anthony Juarez pulled him from the pool, and another teammate, Gabriel Andrade, administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

"These guys are my bros, you know? They saved me," Cortes said a few days later. "I wish I could pay them back, you know?"

Cortes didn't feel well when he got to practice that day, but he didn't mention it to anybody. With league play approaching for a Panthers team that feels it can compete, he wanted every shred of improvement he could pull from himself. As it turns out, he should have listened to his body.

"I sank in the pool. I just passed out," a slightly embarrassed Cortes said. "I wasn't feeling well. I didn't tell coach anything. I still wanted to practice. Then this happened."

After starting practice with sprints, the team moved on to a passing drill. Juarez turned around to pass to Cortes, but Cortes wasn't there.

"I turned around, and he was at the bottom," Juarez said. "I went down and touched him, and he didn't respond, so I came up, got my breath, and went down to get him."

Juarez hooked his arms under Cortes' armpits and brought him to the surface. It wasn't until then that coach Josh Weinberger and the 14 other players present realized the gravity of the situation.

"Anthony said, 'I'm going to go get him,' and I thought he meant, 'I'm going to go get his attention and get him back up here,' " Weinberger said. "And when he comes up with him, and he's limp and not really reacting was when everybody knew it was a big deal."

Weinberger directed Juarez, who has no life-saving training, to bring Cortes to the side of the pool. Then it was Andrade's turn.

Andrade spent several years as a lifeguard at Los Banos public pool at Loftin Stadium, and though that pool is closed, he has kept up to date with lifeguard training.

"I felt that since he had recently been lifeguard trained that he was the most qualified candidate at that point," Weinberger said.

Andrade performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and began chest compressions. A few seconds later, Cortes was breathing again.

It was not Andrade's first experience -- he pulled teammate Brian King from the same pool a year and a half ago, and then-coach Joe Costa performed CPR. Now King watched from the other side of the incident.

"In these situations, you always have a split-second of not knowing what's going on when everybody's jumping into action," King said.

Cortes woke up for a few minutes as he was being transported through Los Banos before passing out again. The next time he woke up, he was at Oakland Children's Hospital. He was released Sunday, and back at school on Tuesday.

Weinberger has talked plenty with his players since the event. The first-year coach prides himself on his communication with the players, but stresses the need to pay attention to their bodies.

He's also very proud of how his players handled themselves.

"They're amazing kids to me. They already were, and now they've just gone above and beyond," Weinberger said. "I think I thanked Anthony and Gabriel about 100 times and congratulated them on a job well done.

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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