Iliana Murguia is heading to Kern County. Key-annah Pu'a is off to Honolulu.

The Nipomo High School seniors both signed letters of intent Friday afternoon to continue their athletic careers at the four-year collegiate level and will be off to different parts of the world after graduating this spring.

Murguia, a soccer standout and the school's top distance runner, signed to play soccer at Cal State Bakersfield. Murguia will play midfielder with the Roadrunners. 

Pu'a is one of the top power pitchers on the Central Coast. She signed to pitch for the Rainbow Wāhine in Mānoa, Honolulu, at the University of Hawai'i in the state's capital. 

Both Murguia and Pu'a were honored by current and former coaches during a ceremony held on the Nipomo campus Friday afternoon. 

"Hawai’i was always one of my dream schools," Pu'a said, noting that the Polynesian connection is especially important for her. Key-annah's late father, Sandy Pu'a, was born in American Samoa. 

"When they offered me, it was really exciting," Key-annah said of Hawai'i. "It's a huge bonus being able to dive into the whole Polynesian culture and get to learn more about it."

Pu'a has thrown 216 2/3 innings at Nipomo. She has a career 1.91 ERA with 23 complete games and four shutouts. She threw two no-hitters as a freshman and has struck out 309 batters in her career. Pu'a can also handle the bat. In 46 games, she's hitting .411 with 10 homers, 33 RBIs and 19 runs scored.

Pu'a, though, says she'll be focusing her energy on pitching at Hawai'i.

“I don't think I'll be doing any hitting once I'm there," she said. "I think I'll be a (pitcher only), so I'm excited about that."

Pu'a did take time to enjoy her day as a few dozen teammates and coaches were there to celebrate the moment.

"It just means a lot and it shows how many people actually impacted my journey in softball and it makes it even more special because it's my dad's birthday today," Pu'a said.  

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"She's a great leader in my ASB class and she doesn't have a problem vocalizing her opinions and I love it," said Jessica Leek, the school’s activities director. "She's someone that the entire class can look up to. If I need something, I know I can text Key-annah and she's going to do it. No questions asked. She's a phenomenal softball player and I'm happy and honored to be a part of this moment."

Hawai'i plays in the Mountain West Conference and went 12-19 during the 2021 spring season. 

Murguia has been one of the area's top distance runners over the past four years, but will focus on soccer at CSUB. Murguia won the Ocean League Cross Country XC title this past week and was a member of the CIF champion cross country team earlier in her prep career. She was joined at her signing by her parents Abram and Maria and sisters Lislena and Cecilia.

"I'm super excited, I'm ready to go there next year and make a difference on the field for them," Murguia said, adding that she used cross country and distance running to improve her endurance on the soccer field. 

It just turned out that she's also really good at running. 

"Cross country actually helped me get faster on the soccer field," she said. "I got into cross country more in high school. I really loved soccer in the end, but cross country did help me become better at soccer."

Murguia will play as a midfielder that can defend and attack with the Roadrunners. She plans on studying Kinesiology at CSUB. Murguia carries a 4.6 GPA at Nipomo. She's been named First Team All-League in both sports and was named the Ocean League's Defensive Player of the Year in soccer. 

Mark Houchin, one of the school's cross country coaches, noted how the 5-foot tall Murguia runs incredibly fast for her size.

"A girl this size has no business running as fast as she runs," Houchin said. "Her legs are a little short, her step is a bit small, but oh my does she light up the cross country field. She's the most dedicated, hard-working athlete that we have."

 The Roadrunners play in the Big West Conference with schools like Cal Poly and UCSB. They went 3-14-2 this past season.


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