By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Leilani Salang didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do with her life but the Blanchet Catholic School senior and Keizer resident did know she wanted to help people.
The United Sates Coast Guard will train her to do that.
“I knew that I wanted to help people and I feel like the military is one of the best ways to do that,” Salang said. “You get a good education at no cost to you. I feel like it was the best path for me.”
Salang signed her national letter of intent and commitment papers on Wednesday, April 19 in the Blanchet library. Along with being a student, she will compete on the track and field team.
“I knew when I wanted to go to college I wanted to do track and field so it was definitely one of my deciding factors,” Salang said. “I knew that I could participate in track there at the Division-III level.”
For a four-year free education worth $500,000, Salang is committing to five years of service in the Coast Guard after graduation.
“All around I’m suited for the coast guard academy,” Salang said. “Everything I want, helping people, saving people, getting an education for as little of a burden on my family as possible. I gave my college fund to my little sisters and they split it in two.”
Coast Guard also runs in Salang’s genes. Her grandfather, who passed away last year, served for more than 25 years and her father eight.
“We were pretty close,” Salang said of her grandfather. “He was in my life since I was a baby. He told me about when he was on the ships and he was a cook and after hours he would make his Filipino food. He loved meeting people and cooking for people.”
While Salang originally wanted to be a physical therapist to help recovering veterans, she’s now turned her attention on being a helicopter pilot and rescuing people out of the ocean.
At Blanchet, Salang has impressed on both the track and field. As a junior, she was named the top Girls Field Event Athlete in the PacWest Conference by winning both the discus and shot put while placing second in the javelin. Salang then finished third in the state in discus and fifth in shot put and javelin.
In the second meet of her senior season, Salang set a new Blanchet record of 129-05 in the discus. She also has the shot put record of 37-11.
Salang runs as well, competing in the 100 and 4×100. The relay team of Salang and three underclassmen won the conference and placed sixth in the state while setting a school record last spring.
Salang considered staying in state at Linfield, where she practices hammer every Sunday, or Oregon State, and joining the reserves while in college.
However, the chance to continue the Coast Guard tradition was just too big an opportunity to pass up.