Athletics The Scholar-Athlete
Poet of the Track
For athlete and writer Maliea Luquin, second stay at SPU has been everything she could hope for
By Mark Moschetti | Photo courtesy of Chris Oertell
In May, Maliea Luquin received the GNAC Female Athlete of the Meet award from conference commissioner Dave Haglund after winning three titles.
Poetry and track: Two reasons why Maliea Luquin yearned to come back to Seattle Pacific University after a year-long hiatus. Those reasons couldn’t be further apart, but they were the reasons that motivated her the most.
Arriving on SPU’s campus in the fall of 2012, Luquin was an academic junior, having completed the Running Start program while at Westview High in Portland, Oregon. That gave her a high school diploma and two years of college credit toward a degree in creative writing, specializing in fiction.
While forging ahead academically, Luquin also became a valuable member of coach Karl Lerum’s track team. “It’s a huge jump from high school to college,” says Luquin. “I didn’t see myself being first at conference. [But] sophomore year, seeing my name move up that list, it became more like, ‘OK, this is something you’re going to continue chasing, something completely attainable, if not in the [heptathlon], then in the hurdles.”
Her plan was to start her master’s and continue competing. But that changed when Luquin learned she had not been accepted into the fiction track of Seattle Pacific’s MFA in creative writing program. So she completed her undergrad degree and headed home to Portland, uncertain about next steps.
“I was trying to figure out if I wanted to write fiction or poetry,” she said. “In my mind, I was chasing fiction because it would pay better. My mom confronted me and said, ‘You like to write poetry more than fiction. Which do you want to do?’ I said, ‘Poetry.’ She said, ‘Then why don’t you pursue that?’”
It was all Luquin needed to hear. She applied to the University of San Francisco and was accepted. But she also reapplied to SPU. And on May 16, 2014, the call came. “I went upstairs and I was crying,” she recalled. “My mom came up and said, ‘You didn’t get in?’ I told her I did, and she said, ‘You need to call Karl.’”
“I was so pleased for Maliea — and also for our program,” Lerum said. “She’s such a treat to work with, and such a good person.”
Her second-year MFA mentor, Jeanne Murray Walker, sees discipline as a link between Luquin’s passions. “She’s no romantic dreamer. I suspect that she believes that if you’re gifted and then you practice, you can write well. And you know what? She’s right. She gets the need to practice aspects of her writing by doing metaphor exercises, learning how to scan meter, getting down and dirty with the forms of poetry.”
Luquin writes in a classic style — she describes it as “narrative driven,” adding that she loves Greek and Roman mythology and sometimes puts a modern spin on those tales. Eventually, she would love to publish a collection in Braille.
As hard as she has worked on her MFA (she graduates in August), Luquin worked just as hard at track. In fact, she grabbed a huge share of the spotlight this spring, capturing three titles at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference outdoor championship meet. First, she won the heptathlon—an endurance test of seven events over two days. “It’s always a matter of ‘Can you put all those events together?’” she says. “That’s the biggest question. So much is mental toughness and endurance and not letting one event get the better of you.”
Then she added the long jump and 100-meter hurdles titles. She was named Female Athlete of the Meet. And she capped her career with races in both the NCAA indoor and outdoor meets.
Ultimately, Luquin’s hiatus helped give her a more complete view of herself. “I had put so much stock in being an athlete — it was good being away from that. Coming away from the sport gave me more of an appreciation for it.”
An appreciation for being Maliea the athlete ... or being Maliea the poet ... or even just being Maliea Luquin.