When Soliaana Faapouli steps into the ring to throw the hammer, she often hears her teammates and coaches cheering for her, but the voice she always listens for is the voice of her daughter.
“She comes to watch me compete,” said Faapouli. “She’ll yell ‘Go mom!’ and then imitate my throws by throwing rocks or sticks.”
Faapouli may be busier than most undergraduate students. She’s a star thrower for the PLNU track team, a former Pac-West champion, a senior less than a month away from graduation and the mother of a 5-year-old daughter.
Faapouli transferred to PLNU from Palomar College her junior year. She competed in track for Palomar and decided to check out PLNU after she saw the team while competing at a track meet at CSU San Marcos. She said she wanted to go to a school that was close to home and the Christian atmosphere was a bonus. While she’s glad that she chose PLNU, it was a difficult transition at first.
“It was difficult transferring because I drive from Oceanside to San Diego and the people were different,” said Faapouli. “Everyone had already made niches. I felt like an outcast at first, until I stepped out of my comfort zone and started talking to people.”
But now she has found a new friend base. Faapouli is a leader on and off the track.
“She’s the total package, said Head Coach Jerry Arvin. “She has all the characteristics I look for; she has moral guidance [and] academic success. She’s competitive and a good athlete.”
Her success as an athlete is not the only thing that makes her indispensible to the team. Faapouli goes out of her way to cheer on and lead her teammates.
“She’s dedicated to the team. The time she spends with the team is time she could be with her own family,” said senior Melody Axtell. “She does a really good job of balancing her time and making the most of it. She knows everyone’s events and spends a lot of time cheering for the team.”
Faapouli is currently chasing the PLNU record in the shot put and hammer throw. Her marks these events are the best in the PacWest, and the second best all-time for PLNU.
“I’m pretty close to the hammer record,” Faapouli said. “In shot put I’m a little bit farther away from the record, it’ll be harder to get that one.”
Faapouli is less than a month away from graduation, and while she’ll miss competing in track and spending time with friends, she’s looking forward to being able to spend more time with her daughter, who starts kindergarten next year.
“Through these years I’ve been able to find special time with her,” said Faapouli. “But after I graduate, I don’t have to get workouts in at random times and I’ll be able to spend that time with her.”
Faapouli said she is proud of her accomplishments on the track and in the classroom, and she’s thankful for the support system that helped her progress into the athlete, student and mother that she is today.
“I couldn’t have done anything without the support of my family,” she said.
Watch Faapouli compete on Saturday, April 18 at Long Beach State.