Friday Feature: Catching Up With Brandy Atuatasi

As a sophomore, Brandy Atuatasi had the No. 6 shot put mark in San Diego Section history while also qualifying for the CIF-State Meet. (Credit: DeAnna Turner)


SANTEE -- Brandy Atuatasi admits it -- she's bored.

The West Hills High junior, who figured she'd be making steady improvement in the shot put and discus by now, instead is trying various ways to stay in shape as the Grossmont Unified School District has closed its doors until April 13 -- at the earliest -- because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Right now, it's really hard," said Atuatasi, 17, who actually got in two meets before the schools closed, hitting a PR 141-4 in the discus and a solid 41-8 in the shot. Both are top-three in the state based off of results before the outdoor track and field season was interrupted.

"They closed the gym (24Hour Fitness)," Atuatasi said. "Before I could go lift weights but now that's out of the picture. I'm doing a lot of push-ups, squats and squat-jumps at home."

Since the school is locked up, not only can't she use its weight room, she can't even use the ring to practice. It's that way at every San Diego County school.

"I have a patio that is concrete and I'm practicing throwing without the implement," she said. "I've made a circle in chalk before and I may do it again. But I still won't have the board. At least it's covered so I can practice my form even though it has been raining."

Atuatasi, who had the eighth-best shot in the state last year at 45-1.50 at the Dick Wilkins Frosh-Soph Invitational (which ranks No. 6 all-time in San Diego Section history), admits she's clinging to the hope that the virus will peak and the schools will reopen in time to at least finish the season.

She was heartened when the State CIF took a 'wait and see' attitude toward all spring playoffs for the time being.

"Not to sound dramatic, but it's heartbreaking," she said. "The NCAA cancelled it's entire season -- horrible. I guess I should be glad I'm not a senior, think how frustrating that must be.

"I suppose I'd just have to start thinking about the club season once things get better."

After hitting 40-feet as a freshman and 45-feet a year ago, she was looking to improve to the 46-47-foot range this year. Despite the big marks last year, it was not the finish she wanted.

"I had one really bad day," said Atuatasi of barely surpassing 100-feet in the discus at the section prelims and failing to qualify for the finals after reaching 136-6 just two weeks earlier. "Getting the 141-4 to start this season was big because I've worked really hard at improving that event. I'm looking for something like 155 to 160 because I've done that in practice, staying in the ring.

"As for the shot, I don't expect another big jump like I did between my freshman and sophomore years, but I think 46 or 47 is realistic."

The San Diego Section record is 49-6 set by Kathy Devine of Mission Bay in 1974. The only other girl to surpass 47 feet is Laulauga Tausaga, who threw 48-3.50 for Mt. Miguel in 2015.

Carrying a 4.65 GPA, Atuatasi, at 5-foot-10, is being heavily recruited and in a way the Coronavirus complicated that, too.

"I was planning to take the SAT test in May, but they cancelled it, so I guess I'll take it in June," said Atuatasi. "That's one of the things I've been doing-practicing for that test.

"This caught my teachers by surprise so they haven't even been able to give us homework." 

She and her sister Briana, who is a sophomore at Grossmont College, have had a little fun, too.

 "We cut the bottom out of a box and used bouncy balls to try to make baskets," she said laughing. "You've got to be creative. Anything to break the boredom.

"The park is right down the street from my house and I run there and back, but not when it's raining." 

In the end, though, she's clinging to hope that at least part of the season is salvageable. 

"I know if they can they'll figure out something," she said. "I'm just trying to stay upbeat."