El Camino High student sets school record in shot put

OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- El Camino High School student Nu'u Tuilefano set a goal for herself during her freshman year when she decided she wanted to leave her mark on the track and field program.

This year she has done just that and then some, becoming a school record holder in the shot put and San Diego section leader in both the shot and the discus.

Tuilefano made it her mission to break the school shot put record, which as of last year stood at 43 feet, 11 inches.

"I threw that 43'11" and I beat the school record, and it was great, it was awesome, but it was just by half an inch," she said.

This year, she broke her own record after throwing 44 feet, five inches, the best mark in the San Diego section this season. But she also set the school record in the discus, after throwing a mark of 138'3".

"I broke both of them here at school so when Coach announced it to everybody on the track, it was just an awesome feeling hearing my name out there," said Tuilefano.

"People like Nu'u are a once-in-a-decade or longer type athlete," said Sean Helgesen, El Camino's track and field coach. "She could possibly put those records out of reach for awhile. I'd need to have another Nu'u show up and again, they don't come wandering in all the time."

The entire Wildcat team throws shot put and discus right-handed, but Nu'u throws left-handed -- a challenge that's proved to be difficult for her coach to teach.

"Literally, I'll practice at home trying to do things left-handed but she's so smart, she'll look at me and say, 'Coach, just do it right handed and I'll flip it,'" said Helgesen.

Her soft-spoken nature comes from a military upbringing, which led her to join the Marine Corps Junior ROTC program, where she has learned to become a leader.

"I bring leadership down here and then I also apply it to them," said Tuilefano. "I tell them, 'don't put yourself down but keep going.'"

"With her, she leads by example," said Helgesen. "The stuff that she does out here, she never takes a day off, never takes a rep off in the ring. Everything she does is 100 percent in the weight room. She works harder than anybody I've ever coached."

Even though she's the section leader in both events, Nu'u says between the two, she definitely has a favorite.

"I like shot put better than discus," she said. "I've just been stuck with it since middle school and I love it and I don't think I can replace it with discus."

After graduation, Nu'u says she plans to attend the College of Charleston in South Carolina, to which she has received a partial scholarship for track and field.