COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A 17-year-old Harrison High School football player who died shortly after collapsing during a game had a heart condition, El Paso County Deputy Coroner Dawn Miller said Saturday.
Fermin Vialpando collapsed during the third quarter Friday night and died, Miller said in a telephone interview. She said he had a heart condition but further testing would be needed to determine the exact cause of death.
The teen's mother, Sundae Vialpando, told The Denver Post her son had no known health problems. "Doctors said sometimes with an athlete — it puts a strain on their heart," she said.
Players, coaches and students met at the school Saturday morning. "We needed to talk about what happened. Everybody liked him. He was a nice person to talk to," athletic director Dave Hogan told The Post. The school canceled its homecoming dance Saturday and held a vigil on the football field.
"I'm having a tough time right now and I'm trying to deal with a whole lot of kids in grief," Harrison coach Shawn Mitchell told The Gazette.
The center on Harrison's offensive line, Vialpando was about 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds.
Vialpando tried to call a huddle just before he collapsed, said Harrison cornerback Miki Eltagonde. "He was running down the field and he just stopped and fell. He tried getting up and then fell back again and it happened again."
Offensive lineman Bryant Perryman yelled to coaches that Vialpando was having a seizure. A team doctor was on the field within a minute of Vialpando's collapsing, said Hogan.
Hogan and Mitchell also said they knew of no medical problems concerning Vialpando.
"Fermin did everything that was asked of him," Mitchell said. "He was the ultimate team player and a great citizen in our hallways. You wish you had a team full of kids like him."
Chris Valentine, public relations manager for Memorial Hospital, said chaplains were called to help grieving players and friends.
"We didn't want anybody driving home alone," Valentine said. "We wanted all students to go home with adults."
The Class 3A South Metro Conference game was stopped immediately with Harrison ahead of Ridgeview Academy 40-15.
Vialpando, a first baseman on the baseball team and member of the marching band, was also an aspiring chef. He was taking a culinary class at Pikes Peak Community College and worked in The Wyndham Hotel kitchen.
"His outlook on life was to dream big and go for it," Angela Vialpando said about her nephew. "He was a real outgoing kid, always on the go. He was quiet and shy sometimes around people he didn't know very well. But around us he was a chatterbox."