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Former University of Hawaii basketball captain was a leader on and off the court

COURTESY SERENDA VALDEZ
                                Karena (Greeny) Owen averaged 9.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while helping lead the Hawaii women’s basketball team to a 23-8 record in 2001-02.
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COURTESY SERENDA VALDEZ

Karena (Greeny) Owen averaged 9.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while helping lead the Hawaii women’s basketball team to a 23-8 record in 2001-02.

COURTESY OWEN FAMILY
                                The Owen family, Karena, left, Sydney, Kale and Dustin, enjoyed a trip to Maui.
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Swipe or click to see more

COURTESY OWEN FAMILY

The Owen family, Karena, left, Sydney, Kale and Dustin, enjoyed a trip to Maui.

COURTESY SERENDA VALDEZ
                                Karena (Greeny) Owen averaged 9.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while helping lead the Hawaii women’s basketball team to a 23-8 record in 2001-02.
COURTESY OWEN FAMILY
                                The Owen family, Karena, left, Sydney, Kale and Dustin, enjoyed a trip to Maui.

Upon her cancer diagnosis in March of 2016, Karena Owen was determined to endure. As a child, she lost her mother to a car accident; the tragedy galvanized the ex-Hawaii Rainbow Wahine basketball player to be there for her two young children as long as possible.

The former Karena Greeny made it four tough years, finally succumbing on April 24 at age 41.

“Great role model. And for her to go through something like this, and kept battling and everything, all the way down to the end, ’til the final buzzer, she fought it, man,” said Vince Goo, her former coach at UH. “She fought it hard.”

The 5-foot-11 forward, a native of Port Angeles, Wash., was a member of winning, postseason teams throughout her college career (1997-2002) and capped it with captaincy as a senior in 2001-02. Owen led the 23-win WNIT team in scoring in Western Athletic Conference play, as well as minutes and 3-point percentage that year en route to earning the Ah Chew Goo Award, the program’s highest honor.

Vince Goo described a rugged, all-around contributor, someone with “a great smile and a great attitude” who grew into leadership over her five years in Manoa playing alongside the likes of Kylie Galloway, Raylene Howard, Crystal Lee, Christen Roper and April Atuaia.

“They jumped on her back and followed her,” he said. “Whether it was about going to class or being good role models in the community, to the youngsters, they just followed and did what she did.”

It was natural, then, that Owen studied elementary education and became a school teacher in Southern California.

During her time in the islands, she met her future husband, Dustin Owen, a UH football offensive lineman. They would have two children, Kale (10) and Sydney (9).

The Owens bled green and would religiously attend UH road games anywhere within reach of Rancho Cucamonga. A few summers ago, during a period when Karena was feeling well between myriad treatments, the family made it out to Hawaii, Goo said, for a memorable evening with about 20 former Wahine.

That was the last time most of them saw her in person.

Owen kept an intermittent journal of her journey battling her illness on the website caringbridge.org. The Port Angeles High Athletic Hall of Famer — she also excelled in soccer, shot put and javelin there — imbued her love of sports into her up-and-down, daily struggle, referencing figures like Lou Gehrig and Jim Valvano who inspired others in a bleak situation.

“To sports. You have given me so much. Confidence is one,” Owen wrote almost exactly a year before her death, on April 22, 2019. “You took a painfully shy kid and blossomed me into a strong woman who could walk around bald after two rounds of chemotherapy. You gave me the ability to hold my head high and chest out.”

In her final journal entry, dated Jan. 5, 2020, she wrote of Dustin helping her through difficult times during the holidays, as well as her pride in her children, who are only slightly older than she was when her mother died.

“Those little human beings in your life know their stuff and they are paying attention. I am proud of them for staying positive and resilient. You definitely have two choices. Curl up and cry about it, which we have done once again, or get back up and dust ourselves off again. We are dusted. Bring it on 2020 with your cancer. I, we, are ready. #kocancer.”

The Karena Greeny Owen Memorial Scholarship for female student-athletes in Port Angeles, Wash., was established through the Port Angeles Education Foundation. Donations in Owen’s name can be mailed to PO Box 787, Port Angeles, WA 98362 or online at www.PA-EF.org.

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