If there is a good word to attach to Heritage’s three-sport standout Katie Peneueta, it’s commitment.
In whatever season she is in, she is committed to getting better, committed to her teammates.
And she’s committed to her school.
While others may wonder if the 6-foot-1 senior ever considered going to another school, it’s not something Peneueta ever thought about.
“I think it’s kind of crazy because there are still people telling me, like even now in my senior year, that I should transfer, or that I should have transferred,” Peneueta said. “But I’ve been here for four years. I’m so loyal to Heritage. I’m just trying to change the stigma around our school of being a losing school and just having that whole negative energy around us and our sports teams in particular.
“I don’t want to go somewhere just to get success. I always wanted to stay here and bring this school success, rather than just hopping on the bandwagon of another already successful school.”
Peneueta has had a lot of individual success at Heritage. In track and field, she was a second-team all-4A Greater St. Helens League pick as a freshman in 2018 before being selected as co-field athlete of the year in the league in 2019.
She was an all-league selection in volleyball her sophomore and junior seasons.
But basketball is where she really shined, earning Columbian All-Region honors three times.
And being a three-sport athlete, Peneueta is thrilled to be back on the court playing volleyball with the Timberwolves.
“It’s definitely been a big blessing,” she said. “I wasn’t really expecting to get a senior season, so it’s just a great opportunity. And it really is a blessing. Being able to play even the few games that we can is really awesome.”
Peneueta is used to being busy, used to being around people. So the remote learning with no sports was challenging.
“It does kind of make you not as motivated for school,” she said. “And I’m sure there are so many students just all over the GSHL who have been experiencing that. With sports, it’s really weird during that whole first half of the school just sitting at home all day on your computer and then not being able to go to a practice afterward.”
She’s glad to have sports back, although she’s a little saddened by the fact that she won’t be able to finish her career at Heritage as a three-sport athlete.
Last month, the 4A/3A GSHL announced it will divide the rest of the school year into two seasons. That means in Season 2, Peneueta will have to choose between basketball and track and field.
“My immediate thought is that I’d be playing basketball,” she said. “But it’s unfortunate that I won’t be getting to throw in track this year. It’s always really fun to get outside because I’m usually inside on the court. And it’s nice to be around a lot of kids that I wouldn’t normally be around, like during school or during basketball or volleyball.”
Basketball helped fill the void for her last summer, when she was fortunate to play some games last summer with her club team, Tree of Hope based in Seattle.
“It was really interesting because the practices we were having were outdoors at an elementary school on concrete before we headed off to Indiana for the Tournament of Champions,” she said. “It was really, really nice to be able to get out and compete. It was a great experience to play with some really talented girls that I hadn’t been able to play with before.”
She’s also excited for her future. Although nothing is official — the application process can be very complex and a pandemic is not helping matters — Peneueta plans on attending and playing basketball for the Air Force Academy.
“I haven’t announced it officially, but most people know I plan on attending the Academy,” she said.
Peneueta said she has always been drawn to the military as she has several relatives who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces. But she also sees it as the best path for her future.
“There were a lot of other schools that had offered me,” she said. “But I just thought about would I rather go to their school for four years and then not really know what I’m going to be doing afterwards. Or I could go to the academy for four years and serve for five years. And get paid to live in different places and get to serve for our county.”
Right now, she’s glad to be serving for the Timberwolves, who are off to a bit a slow start. But Peneueta see signs of improvement.
“Our first match (vs. Prairie) was very rough,” she said. “But even that improvement in just one game against Union, we improved so much. I was so proud of the girls of being able to bounce back from our loss against Prairie. I know we lost against Union, but we were able to take a set off them, really able to come together and figure out what we needed to fix and how we needed to perform. I’m just really proud of the improvement we made in that one day with no practice.”
And Heritage is proud of Katie Peneueta.
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/preps coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, email@example.com or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.