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Saturday, July 10, 2004 - Page updated at 12:39 A.M.
Teen athlete mourned
Andrew "Drew" Albrecht was a fearsome athlete. But he also had a gentle side. He could sense when a friend needed to talk, he gave the best gifts and was chummy with his dad.
"He used to come home every day and tell me about the bruises with a big smile," said his father, Ron Albrecht, who was wearing a "Bothell Football" T-shirt yesterday as he tearfully remembered his son.
Drew Albrecht, 15, died Wednesday at Evergreen Hospital Medical Center in Kirkland from what health officials say was bacterial meningitis. Shocked friends and family are still trying to make sense of the death of a teen they remember as a top athlete, talented student and humorous friend.
Albrecht felt OK until Monday, his father said. Then he came home after a weight-lifting session with the Bothell High School football team complaining of a pounding headache that was so intense it felt like his head was "exploding."
"It was in less than 24 hours, and that's what makes this disease so hard," Ron Albrecht said. "It can creep up on you, and you don't even know it."
Yesterday morning, about 40 students from the football team met at the high school for a regular 90-minute weight-lifting session.
Coach Tom Bainter said he considered canceling but was told by school counselors that the kids may take comfort from continuing their routine and being around one another.
Ron Albrecht arrived to thank students for their messages of support. Many students continued quietly lifting weights while some sought comfort from two counselors in attendance, the coach said.
"The kids all mourn in different ways," Bainter said. "The message was that we will get through this together."
Bainter said Albrecht was a "real hard worker" who was always positive and upbeat. "He was one of those people that are fun to be around."
Albrecht's determination shone through last year at Skyview Junior High when he broke his leg during the first football game of the season, said his friend James Orrell, 15.
He sat out the remaining games, but was soon back to his starring role with his school basketball team, which has gone undefeated the past two years. He also returned to wrestling and playing baseball, Orrell said.
About a month ago, he began lifting weights with the Bothell High football team. A right tackle, he was to play with the sophomore team when he began classes in the fall.
Albrecht never let his success at sports go to his head, Orrell said. He continued mixing with a wide variety of people and was friendly toward "anyone who wanted to be his friend."
Despite being too young to get his driver's license, Albrecht was also keenly interested in mechanics and spent a lot of time with his two older brothers fixing and restoring cars, Orrell said.
Orrell remembers how Albrecht once helped him and his mom move to a new house over an entire week.
Another time Albrecht, knowing his father's love of chess, made a chess board for him at school. In another school project, Albrecht made a floor plan of a house and enjoyed the process so much that he decided his future lay in architecture.
Distraught friends have already set up a memorial Web site.
"I can't face the fact that I'm not going to be seeing you roaming around school being the cool kid that you are," wrote one. "You were such a good friend. And an AWESOME guy. You always made me laugh. It was hard not to have fun when people are around you."
Orrell said that when his friend was hospitalized, Orrell was convinced his physical strength and positive attitude would pull him through. He was so shocked when he heard Albrecht died that he contacted the teen's sister and the hospital to make sure.
"He was healthy on Monday, he was lifting weights with his friends," Orrell said. "Then by Wednesday he was just gone."
King County medical examiners expect to announce the boy's cause of death as early as today.
Albrecht had recently attended an Eastern Washington University football camp in Cheney.
After learning of Albrecht's death, Northshore School District officials notified 136 students who were at practice at Bothell High with him Monday.
At least a dozen of his friends are taking a course of antibiotics and are being monitored by health officials, said Dave Neubert, communications coordinator for the school district.
Friends and family yesterday were searching for a venue big enough to hold Albrecht's many admirers. They've decided to hold a memorial service at 1 p.m. July 17 at Maltby Christian Assembly, 9322 Paradise Lake Road in Snohomish.
A memorial fund is set up in Drew Albrecht's name at the Bothell branch of Banner Bank.
"I have a hole in my heart now and always will," said Ron Albrecht.
Young Chang: 206-748-5815
Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or email@example.com
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