"She's pretty resilient," Tom Santo said of his youngest daughter, Kari.
A Warren Area High School senior, Kari tore her left ACL in the second game of the season. It was with three seconds left in overtime.
The fact her high school career ended with three seconds left in the game hasn't been the most difficult part to digest, for Kari. It's actually been games like Tuesday night, when Warren went into double overtime with Mercyhurst Prep, and she couldn't help her team.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Warren Area High School senior Kari Santo
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Kari has been through this before, unfortunately, tearing her right ACL while playing as a freshman for Eisenhower High School. She battled back from that injury and reinvented herself as a defensive specialist for the Lady Dragons, after a transfer.
She became a favorite of head coach Lisa Ruhlman, who Tom Santo said pushed his daughter to be the best player she could be.
"Lisa really pushed her and she responded," said Santo. "In one game, she said, 'you're done using your brace now.' Kari never wore it again."
"You shouldn't say 'why me,' but say there must be a reason and move forward," said Kari. "It's depressing knowing you can't play anymore, but all you can do is try and remain positive."
That kind of attitude helped her to become a co-captain.
"She didn't miss a single summer workout and dedicated herself to making her team better," said Ruhlman. "She is our team mother. She is a very caring young lady and I love her heart! Obviously her role has changed on the team, since she can't play. Truthfully, her role is bigger now. I send her game films and she helps break them down for us. She has a job every game on the bench for us and she is a wonderful leader. She has slid John White down the bench and sits right next to me during our games. She has a vast knowledge of the game and I can totally see her coaching or reffing some day. My three daughters adore Kari. My only hope is that one of them has the hope, courage and fight that Kari has in her."
Her father is confident she'll get through this.
"Do you feel badly because she can't play, absolutely," said Tom. "But you have to look at the big picture... and she's going to be okay."
A little "Q & A" with Kari Santo:
Q: Who are your parents, siblings, and what sports do you play?
A: My parents are Tom and Molly Santo. I have an older sister Stefanie and an older brother Andrew. I am currently a member of the Lady Dragons basketball team.
Q: You have shown your strength an resiliency as an athlete before and will now have to show it again. Tell me about your most recent injury, Kari. To which knee was the injury and what is the prognosis?
A: During the second game of the year with three seconds left in overtime I tore the ACL in my left knee. I will have surgery on the knee at the end of the month.
I knew right away what happened because it was exactly the same feeling I had when I tore the ACL in my right knee my freshman year. I was able to get through the first tear because of the support of my family, coach (Dave) Allenson and my teammates. I had no idea what to expect from surgery or rehab so I'm assuming it will be easier the second time around.
The first injury I was working to get back so I could play basketball again. This rehab will be based on getting my leg normal again.
Q: Were you proud of the way you overcame the previous injury and how are you attacking this one mentally?
A: I've been taught when you participate in athletics sometimes injuries occur. I saw my brother receive two bad concussions and watched how he handled them. I'm trying to do the same. I believe you need to continue to support your team and teammates. You shouldn't say "why me" but say there must be a reason and move forward. It's depressing knowing you can't play any more, but all you can do is try and remain positive.
Q: You have overcome a lot in sports, Kari. You played in the Eisenhower program and then for Warren when you switched schools, thriving on both teams. Tell me about the transition, on how you were received and what you were most proud of in the transition.
A: It was hard at first leaving Eisenhower because I didn't know what to expect at Warren. When basketball started up it was much easier. The team accepted me right away and I love playing with all of them and for Lisa (Ruhlman).
I'm most proud of growing as a player and being able to play at the level Warren plays against with teams like Mercyhurst Prep, Villa Maria and Hickory. I've been really lucky to have two great coaches to play for in Coach Allenson and Coach Ruhlman.
Q: You have an extremely close and dedicated sports family. Tell me what your family has meant to you throughout your school days and sports activities.
A: My family means everything to me in everyday life and sports. My parents are very supportive of everything we kids do. I can't say enough about Stef and Andrew. I have contact with Stef every day and she has really helped me through both injuries and school. My mom and dad sacrifice a lot to make sure we are given every opportunity possible.
Q: Who or what is your inspiration and why?
A: I'd have to say my siblings. I watch the way they have done things and it has been successful for them so why not try and follow what they are doing.
Q: Do you think you could be inspiring for what you are overcoming?
A: If I happened to be an inspiration to someone that's great! I'd help anyone I could get through any type of setback. It's really not something you go looking for.
Q: I assume you are a huge Penn Stater as well, like the rest of your family? What does your future look like in terms of your major, experience at Penn State and what you want to do for the rest of your life?
A: I'm a huge and proud Penn Stater and Penn State fan. I will be going to University Park or Behrend after graduation. I am yet undecided on a major. I like journalism, so maybe I'll become a sports reporter!!!!
Q: I know your career isn't over, as you are still a huge part of your Lady Dragons team, at least emotionally. But what are your favorite memories in sports over the years?
A: I really enjoyed watching my brother and sister play. I appreciated playing with my friends and teammates. Playing with Jaimie, Taylor, Alexa, DJ, Paige, Lizzy, Meghan, the Merenicks, and all the younger players these past couple of years, has been great. The entire Warren team gets along unbelievably well. It's been a good move for me. I have great friends at Warren High.
Q: Kari, between now and later this month when you have surgery, what are your hopes and thoughts? As long as you are comfortable answering.
A: I hope surgery goes well and my rehab also goes well. I hope our team keeps winning.
Q: What are your favorite hobbies outside of sports?
A: Outside sports, I like to read and watch sports and movies.
Q: Tell me something not many would know about you.
A: There is really nothing.
Q: Tell me a question I forgot to ask and then answer it.
A: You didn't ask me who would I like to meet in the world of sports?
Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Coach Nick Saban.