Former Matador wins the gold at the 2017 Pan American Championships in Peru

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If there is such a thing as destiny, then Laulauga Tausaga-Collins and the discus were meant for each other. 

The University of Iowa freshman, a Spring Valley, California resident and former Mount Miguel Matador, joined 83 other athletes representing Team USA at the 2017 Pan American Junior Championships in Trujillo, Peru in July, after winning the discus throw at the National Championship in Sacramento on June 22. Tausaga-Collins threw 59.29 to win gold in Peru, setting a new meet record.

If there is such a thing as destiny, then Laulauga Tausaga-Collins and the discus were meant for each other. 

The University of Iowa freshman, a Spring Valley, California resident and former Mount Miguel Matador, joined 83 other athletes representing Team USA at the 2017 Pan American Junior Championships in Trujillo, Peru in July, after winning the discus throw at the National Championship in Sacramento on June 22. Tausaga-Collins threw 59.29 to win gold in Peru, setting a new meet record.

“I felt so much pride to be able to compete for my country and to win an international meet,” said Tausaga-Collins. “To hold up that flag and take the stand as number one has me wanting to do the same one day for a senior USA team.”

Now, the Hawkeye track and field star is back in Iowa, training for her sophomore season, with sights set on winning NCAA and possibly making an Olympic team. But her journey began a long time ago. 

Tausaga-Collins is originally from Hawaii. Her mother, the family’s sole provider, moved Tausaga-Collins and her four siblings to California where she jumped into track and field her freshman year at Mount Miguel high school. 

“I had played freshmen volleyball and JV basketball ball and had decided to do track after a coach said I’d make a varsity team if I tried out,” said the thrower. “And after the success I had my freshman year I knew that I wanted to compete for the next three years.”

It was a perfect fit for Tausaga-Collins, who said that, beyond enjoying success as a track and field athlete, throwing seemed to validate who she was.

“I felt like I was made for it,” she said. “It was okay to be a big and strong.”

Strong — a word that describes the Tausaga-Collins women well. Behind every great athlete is a bevy of coaches, parents and supporters, and Tausaga-Collins said her mother, Avea Tausaga, is the very best of them.

“My mother has shaped us into the people we are today,” she said. “I owe her everything. She is my Number One Fan and my best friend. She’s has been with me every step of the way and has made sure that I want for nothing. Without her pushing me I wouldn’t be able to attend college and be the athlete that I am.”

The humble young woman expressed gratitude to her high school throwing coaches, Roberto Rios and Jorge Reyes, for helping her win a scholarship through their mentorship and training, and her freshman-year college coach, Jack Rossi, for helping her raise her performance to higher levels.

Throwing is a game of chance. Each competitor is allowed three throws, three chances to make it to the next round. 

“You have to push hard and be mentally strong,” said Tausaga-Collins. “If you are strong enough to go through two bad throws and be mentally calm and not freak out over your last throw then you’ll be one step ahead of the game. Mental toughness is the key to throwing for me.”

Focus and mental endurance, said Tausaga-Collins, have made all the difference in her career.

“I am motivated by understanding that I have talent but that it can always be surpassed by someone working harder than me,” she said. “So I push myself  to make sure that I can stay ahead or close to competing with the top girls in my sport.”

Tausaga-Collins is every bit as much a student as she is an athlete. Undeclared, but leaning towards communications, she said the biggest surprise at college was the realization that she actually could balance academics and athletics. She credited her scholastic focus to the mental stamina she has built up as an athlete.

“I am usually a slow learner, and I procrastinate a lot,” she said. “But in my last year I have felt so focused on both sports and school that I have gotten myself to a level where I have overcome those obstacles and gotten better at academics, much like getting better at my event.”

There are no shortcuts and no turning back for the Matador alumna. She said she does not believe in sitting on the sidelines.

“Follow your dreams till the wheels fall off,” she said. “Don’t sit and ask yourself ‘What if?’”