2020 Olympics Triple Jump
Shanieka RIcketts, former Aztec and two-time Olympian, as shown at 2021 Tokyo Games. Photo credit: goaztecs.com

It’s safe to say August 22, 2023, was a day that changed the life of Spring Valley native Laulauga Tausaga.

“It was like a bomb. It was a shock. Where did that come from?” Tausaga said of her stunning gold medal discus throw at the World Track & Field Championships nearly a month ago in Hungary.

She spoke Sunday after taking second at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., serving as the final meet of the year in the sport’s most elite series of meets.

Tausaga, 25, threw 68.36 meters (224 feet, 3 1/4 inches) to finish less than a foot behind countrywoman Valarie Allman, the Tokyo Olympic champion, but ahead of Croatia’s Sandra Perković, a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Lagi Tausaga, a Mount Miguel High School alumnus, reacts after winning gold at the world track and field championships in Budapest.
Lagi Tausaga, a Mount Miguel High School alumnus, reacts after winning gold at the world track and field championships in Budapest. Image via X

For the first time, the Prefontaine Classic served as the final competition of the 5-month-long, 14-meet Diamond League circuit.

On Saturday, Day 1 of the two-day meet, San Diego State University graduate Shanieka Ricketts, who competes for her native Jamaica, finished second in the women’s triple jump in a personal best jump of 15.03 meters (49-3 3/4).

The performance was redemption of sorts for Ricketts, 31, who took fourth — just off the medal podium — in Budapest, Hungary.

“This season was filled with lots of blessings, challenges and lessons,” she said on Instagram. “But through it all, God showed up and showed out! He granted my heart’s desire, and I am truly humbled and excited to see what’s next for me.

“I am looking forward to some much needed rest and relaxation before resuming preparations for Paris 2024!”

in Budapest, Tausaga improved her personal best by more than 13 feet to win the sport’s biggest non-Olympic event.

The graduate of Mount Miguel High School in Spring Valley, nicknamed “Lagi” by friends and competitors, was far from being one of the sport’s biggest stars prior to that breakout performance.

She won an NCAA title competing for the University of Iowa and twice represented the United States at global championships, finishing 12th at both meets.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I still get weirded out when someone says, ‘Hey, world champion.’ Who are you talking to, me?” Tausaga joked.

Competitors in field events like the discus are often the overlooked athletes of track and field – both in fame and monetary compensation.

The breakthrough in Budapest has had life-changing financial benefits for Tausaga, who inked a new sponsorship deal with Nike after the World Championships and hopes for additional endorsement deals heading into the 2024 Paris Olympic year.

“A lot of people don’t understand how hard the sport is, especially for throwers,” Tausaga said. “We get the short end of the stick. We don’t make a lot of cash. I finally get to pay off some things.”

Tausaga, like Ricketts, won $12,000 for her runner-up finish Sunday, in addition to the $70,000 she won for her world title.

Even with the additional financial security, don’t expect a lot to change in how Tausaga prepares for the Paris Games.

“I am a firm believer in doing what made you good,” Tausaga said. “There aren’t going to be dramatic changes. I do believe in staying the course.”

Sunday also saw two world records that cement the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field in the lore of track and field history.

Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay shattered the world record in the women’s 5000 meters by nearly five seconds, crossing the line in 14:00.21. The prior record was set just four months ago by Faith Kipyegon, considered the greatest female middle distance runner of all time.

Pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis set the other world record of the day, clearing a height of 6.23 meters (20-5 1/4) to better his own outdoor record set at last year’s world championships on the same runway at the University of Oregon.

Day one of the meet Saturday also featured two thrilling races on the track.

In the men’s mile, Norwegian phenom Jakob Ingebrigtsen threatened the 24-year-old world record of 3:43.13 held by Hicham El Guerrouj but ultimately finished just short with a time of 3:43.73, making him the third-fastest man ever to run the distance.

Ingebrigtsen was tailed by American and Notre Dame graduate Yared Nuguse throughout the race. Nuguse crossed the finish line just yards behind Ingebrigtsen and was rewarded with a new American record time of 3:43.97, nearly three seconds faster than Alan Webb’s previous record.

In the first race of the day, USC graduate Rai Benjamin of the U.S. upset world record holder Karsten Warholm in the 400-meter hurdles – the first time the 26-year-old American bested the Norwegian when both were racing healthy.