Winning her third career Swimmer of the Week honor, and a Swimmer of the Month honor, Andrea Vega (JR/Barrington, Ill.) is hoping to send the Tigers to a consecutive National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Champions.
Vega already has two National Championship appearances under her belt, and is no stranger to the tough competition they will face at the end of the season. She has no plans of slowing down her pace from past seasons, posting season-best times in the 400m individual medley and 100m breaststroke. Her breaststroke is currently best in the NAIA (1:04.85).
“(Vega) swims in the boys’ lane every day,” Adrienne Anderson (JR/Clifton, IL) said. “She’s keeping up with them. There have been times when she’s gotten her best times ever in practice. At the end of a really hard workout, she’ll go for her best time or break a pool record.” Anderson was a roommate with Vega, and knows how hard she works to be competing at such a high level.
The team is eager for redemption after a strong, but narrow win at the National Championship last season. “I really, really want us to be able to win again this year [at the National Championship].” Anderson said. “Last year we only won by 6 points.”
Despite Vega’s ability to crank out top times so consistently, she is more than able to keep everything in perspective and remember that this is a team sport.
“Andrea trains so hard all the time,” Head Coach Scott Teeters said. “And she never trains for Andrea…Her drive and her motivaion comes from killing it every day because she wants to be the best she can be for her team; for her sisters and friends.”
When asked about her expectations for the National Championship, Vega exemplified her team-based passion by talking about her hopes for the freshmen rather than her personal time goals.
“I think it’s important that [the freshmen] have the mindset where they have to do the best that they can for the team; not so much for themselves,” Vega said. “I think it’s so much more worth it when you swim for others versus yourself…I know that winning is the overall picture, and it’s what we want to achieve, but if we only think about winning, then it’s going to take our minds off of what is really important: and that’s swimming for each other and for God.”
Vega initially planned on not swimming post-high school at all, but is glad she did and found out her reason for swimming competitively.
“My family, friends, and coaches wanted me to keep swimming in college, but I was kind of set on not [swimming],” said Vega. “I really didn’t know what I was swimming for. I didn’t really feel like I had a purpose…I was just kind of swimming for myself…but here, I feel like I’m part of something bigger. We all swim for each other and for God.”
Andrea’s sister, Guadalupe Vega (FR/Barrington, Ill.) also swims on the team, allowing for the sisters to cultivate their relationship, while also honing their skills.
“For some reason, it’s just different having [Guadalupe] on this team,” said Vega. “Even though we’ve lived together and swam together our whole lives, I feel like I’ve gotten closer with her here…I love seeing her work hard and being there to push her through all of it.”
The team anticipates utilizing both Andrea and Guadalupe Vega in their run at the NAIA National Championship in March. This Friday at 5 pm both the Women’s and Men’s swim teams are competing at home against Wheaton College.
Photos by Shania Hall