VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) - A three-sport standout from Vancouver spent the month of July far from the Pacific Northwest to get closer to her roots during the 2019 Pacific Games.

There are long wolves, but it's best to travel in a pack. For the Heritage High School Timberwolves, junior Katie Peneueta is the alpha leading them all out of the den with a gold medal around her neck.

"I didn't really want to go tell everyone, 'Hey, I won a gold medal this summer.' I just don't want to be that type of person to push it on people," said Peneueta. "I never thought I was going to be able to go represent a whole nation of people."

Peneueta spent three weeks of her summer vacation by celebrating her Samoan heritage.

"The Samoan tradition is to hug and give a little kiss to everyone you meet, and so it was just interesting hugging everyone that I met," Peneueta said.

The 6-foot-2 star was invited to play for American Samoa, the U.S. territory island of some 55,000 people, in the Pacific Games as the youngest baller on the roster.

"I am so use to club ball, which is really fast and there is just a lot of quick movements, but the thing with playing with grown women, they are very methodical about their play and they take the time and find the right plays. They don't rush things," Peneueta said.

Peneueta earned the start in the gold medal game, and it was pure bliss.

"Once we got back in the locker room, that's when the tears started coming," she said.

Fall brings a change of scenery for Peneueta - from fast breaks to bump, set, spike.

"Volleyball is kind of like my getaway from basketball. I still put shots up and get in workouts in on the weekends, but I really enjoy the fun of volleyball. It's not as much stress as basketball," said Peneueta.

She is being heavily recruited to hoop it up by multiple Division 1 colleges, but education is the golden ticket.

"At the same time it is really stressful, it is also really humbling knowing all of the opportunities that I have and I just have to think back on it and thank God for all of the blessings I have received," said Peneueta.

So what does she want to do?

"I want to be a forensic pathologist," Peneueta told FOX 12. "I kind of think it's because I grew up with my grandma watching Law & Order: SVU all the time and Criminal Minds, I think it just kind of stuck in my head that I want to do that."

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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