Young shot putter’s cultural background shapes work ethic

CAMILLE LEMKE; Guest Writer; lemkecr@plu.edu

Dedication, talent and strong cultural values have led Pacific Lutheran University shot putter first-year Vakeaemanu “Edda” Hunkin to success in her first collegiate track and field season.

The Spanaway native comes from a Samoan and Tongan background, which she describes as a foundation of discipline and respect for her sport, and for her coaches and teammates.

Though Hunkin has shot put experience from her Spanaway Lake High School career, her drive to improve and respectful nature allows her to learn from her peers.

“I’m not going to step out of place and disrespect an upperclassman, or I’m not going to tell them they’re wrong if they’re trying to help me out,” said Hunkin. “I take what they tell me and use it and learn from it.”

Her steady growth in practice and consistent performances in meets are culminating an outstanding season so far. Hunkin earned an Indoor All West Regional Honor for her shot put distance of 11.87 meters and has also received Northwest Conference Field Athlete of the Week.

“[Edda] is a powerhouse,” said teammate and fellow thrower, senior Annie Waldrop. “She has a reputation of being a very good thrower and has the potential to have some pretty amazing performances.”

Some of her season’s highlights include coming in first place for shot put at the PLU Open in March and scoring her college best for shot put with a distance of 12.99 meters at the Lewis and Clark Spring Break Open where she came in fifth place.

“Edda popped a huge throw at the Lewis and Clark meet. She was so happy and everyone around her was excited to see her push it out there,” said Waldrop. “Most of the time she stays really focused, but that day was a really good day for her, and I don’t think anyone could have wiped the smile off her face. She was absolutely glowing with happiness and pride.”

Hunkin’s work ethic and the respect she pays to her fellow teammates make her a vital and loved member of the track and field team.

“She is a joy to be around and takes practice and competition very seriously,” said Waldrop. “I think she is going nowhere but up from here. She has the dedication, support and the positive mental attitude to do some pretty astonishing things here at PLU for the throwers and the academic community as well.”

Family is another pillar of Samoan culture, and Hunkin said that she wouldn’t be where is she is without her family. She attributes her success in track and field to how her parents raised her in regards to working hard and respecting her elders, as well as  her sibling support system. Her older brother Lepapamatietie “Mookie” Hunkin also attends PLU and is a member of the football team.

With the talent and level head Hunkin exhibits, it will be exciting to see what she can do the rest of this season and in the next three years she has on the track and field team here at PLU. 🅼

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