Four students receive 2016 San Diego Heart of a Champion Awards
By Namulauulu Alapati
On Saturday, April 30, 2016 Pastor Benson Fuaautoatasi Mauga and the First Samoan Baptist Church hosted the 12th annual Heart of a Champion Sports Awards Banquet in their church in Helix, San Diego. The event was attended by many from the community as well as some special guests who were there to celebrate the achievements of some special student athletes from our San Diego area. There were many guests and visitors who attended the program including the honorable Senator from American Samoa, Afoafouvale Leulumoegafou Su'esu'e Lutu who came from American Samoa to be a part of this event. He also was one of the featured speakers of the program.
The program was a beautiful celebration of the youth. The awards presented were given to local High School and College student/athletes based on their academics and their level of competitive efforts for the last year.
The High School awards went to two deserving students. The male Student/Athlete award was given to Maeaeafe Emmanuel Alailima, a Senior from Helix High School. He had a 3.38 GPA and played through serious injury at the start of his senior year before anchoring their Defensive line and winning the San Diego City Championship. Maea received a scholarship to play football at Azusa Pacific College in Los Angeles.
The female High School recipient was Laulauga Tausaga, a senior from Mount Miguel High School. Laulauga was the City Section Champion in the Shotput last year setting a record with a throw of 48ft 3.5 inches. She is also one of the top Discus throwers in the City. Her athletic achievements have attracted alot of College recruiters including Iowa and UCLA. She decided to go with Iowa and will be a Hawkeye this coming fall.
The College Heart of a Champion award recipients were Lance Leota and Evangeline Morga. Evangeline Morga is a starting guard for the San Diego City College women's basketball team. She has been one of the team's leaders and is contributing in both scoring and assists as a Freshman. In 23 games played last season she averaged 9.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Lance Leota, arrived from Samoa, (Independent Samoa) last June with 3 other young Samoan men in pursuit of a dream to attend a US College and play football. He had played one season of organized football in American Samoa before returning to Apia where he met Richard Brown, an ex-NFL player living there who trained them for a year in preparation for this season. They enrolled at Grossmont College with the help of Pastor Benson Mauga and the rest is history. Last Season Lance became a starter on the defensive line as a Freshman. Almost immediately his play as a Defensive Tackle was solid and consistent as he continued to improve week after week. He played in 9 games last season recording 2 sacks and 27 tackles, 17 of those were solo tackles. He was a disruptive force in the middle for the Grossmont Defense creating havoc for opposing offenses.
The main award of the night for most Inspirational Athlete of the Year which was presented to Quinn Seau, the nephew of the Football Hall of Famer Junior Seau, whose older brother Savaii is Quinn's father. Quinn was unable to attend the presentation due to the family awaiting word on his cousin, Ian Seau's NFL draft day. Quinn played as starting linebacker for St. Augustine High School and his GPA was an impressive 4.33. This combined with his stand out play for the Saints in the past 3 years has been instrumental in St. Augustine winning their first CIF championship last season, since 2006. He has been eyed by many college programs including Stanford and Florida State. The Se'au legacy is alive and well.
The program was a mixture of entertainment and inspirational messages. The Featured Speaker was HON. Senator: Afoafouvale Leulumoegafou LUTU (Am Samoa-Senate, Rep. South Korean Peninsula Counsel, Law Firm, Former Am Samoa Attorney General under GOV. AP Lutali & recent GOV. Lolo Moliga). His remarks were directed at keeping humble and not taking anything for granted. He was followed by Charlie Brown, Director for Public Relations for the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Native Americans, the "Heart to Heart" speaker- Mark WALCZAK -former NFL PRO TE..(IND "Colts" - BUF "Bills" - Arizona"Cardinals" & SD"Chargers") and the "Heart of SAFETY" speaker- LT. Mann Del TORO (San Diego Homicide-Vice-SD Police Dept.) One of the special guests there who also spoke to the gathered guests was the Producer of the successful Samoan Movies, the Silamanino Series. Eliza Su'a. She spoke of the dreams that are fulfilled by hard work and determination.
The First Samoan Baptist Church provided a splendid meal and all who attended were well fed. The most important thing is the community were able to come and enjoy the achievements of their youth. These are the future of Samoa and our Samoan people in the USA. There was more than just athletic talent present on this day, Singing the national anthem and final song was American Idol contestant Samuelu Fesili from Oceanside High School.
The next banquet will be held one year from April 30, 2016. Mark that date on your calendar and be sure to attend next year.
Polynesian All American Bowl played in Oceanside brings together players from all over the country and unites Polynesians in game of football
LAIGA FOUNDATION together with various groups from San Diego and Oceanside combined again to put on a well coordinated and exciting Poly Bowl. The participants and their families were treated to a game that was exciting right up to the last minute. Families filled the Oceanside High School Pirate Stadium, Home of Junior Seau, making it a festive day for sports fans and casual Polynesian Cultural observers. But the persons who benefited the most were those college scouts who came to see the top Polynesian High School Football players compete against each other.
Le Malae was able to talk to a number of High School athletes and Coaches as well as the President of Aiga Foundation, George Malauulu. George was esctatic that the game was so well attended in fact he surmised it was perhaps the most well attended event since the start of the Poly Bowl. Aiga Foundation has been at the forefront of Polynesian Football for High School athletes for over ten years.
The game itself was a hard hitting game which gave College and High School Coaches a really close up look at these young Bulls who were not afraid to make the hit and get hit. These High School kids were in many instances the size of professional Football players with behemoths well over 6'6" and 300 lbs on both sides of the ball. There were some excellent speedsters running and catching the ball, while technique and speed of the Defensive backs made life hard for the receivers and QBs. By the end of the game it was evident that many of these youth were heading to college short of academic problems, they had size, speed and high game IQ.
Several Professional athletes and former All Stars were on the side lines both cheering and coaching these young athletes. Manti Te'o of the San Diego Chargers enjoyed the game. Tenny Palepoi, his team mate also commented on how the game brought back memories and this was how Polynesians would get noticed and recruited to better colleges if they participated in games like this. Coaches were also excited by this opportunity because there was not many chances for College Coaches to see the skill and athleticism of the Polynesian Football player. This game was one of the only real opportunities for college scouts and even pro scouts to get a good look at some of the Samoan, Tongan and Hawaiian athletes.
One coach, Coach Damuni from Maui, Hawaii is Fijian and he wanted to bring more Fijians to these camps and help the world discover the talents of the Fiji islands many of whom play professional Rugby but few have yet to crack the NFL. The latest to try is Jared Haynes who converted from being a star of Rugby League in Australia to the NFL and is trying to make the San Francisco 49ers squad.
In the end it was the young men themselves who spoke the loudest both in action and through their humble but clear appreciation to play the game. There were young men from as far East as Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and further west like Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, California and Hawaii. For them the chance to meet with other Polynesians and bond over the week was the most memorable part of the Poly Bowl week. You could see it in the eyes of the parents and family members taking pictures with their sons after the game, this was definitely a memory to cherish.
Mount Miguel senior Laulauga Tausaga sets record in discus