Joining sjsuspartans.com for 20 Questions this week is Ashley Vrieze, the former San Jose State University swimming standout who has joined the Spartan coaching staff for the upcoming season. The first-year assistant coach graduated this past May with a degree in corporate finance. Her breakout senior season as a competitive swimmer included five school-record performances and was highlighted by two medals at the 2007 Western Athletic Conference Championship in San Antonio, Texas, in February.
In addition to her pair of top-three finishes at the meet, the school record-holder in all three backstroke distances picked up an NCAA B’ cut and qualified as an individual for USA Swimming’s spring and summer championships. The native of Arcata, Calif., and team “Co-Swimmer of the Year” was a San Jose State University “Scholar-Athlete,” as well as a San Jose State Associated Students A.S. 55 Award recipient and Academic All-WAC honoree during her Spartan career.
Vrieze is currently both coaching and training for next month’s summer nationals in Indianapolis, Ind., where she will be attempting to attain a qualifying time for the 2008 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.
1. What is one word that can be used to describe yourself?
2. Do you have any pre-meet rituals or superstitions?
No, not really. I just try and not think about my race.
3. Who are some of your favorite sports heroes?
I like Natalie Coughlin and Michael Phelps. It’s fun to watch them swim. They are always breaking some sort of record, and doing something above and beyond
what people would expect. They are phenomenal racers.
4. What is the latest song you downloaded, and some of your favorite bands or musicians?
(I downloaded) “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie. I don’t really have any favorite bands. I like anything.
5. What are some of your favorite movies and television shows?
For movies, I like Because I Said So and Old School. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is funny. On television, I like Sex and the City, The Real World and Rob & Big.
6. What was your favorite class at San Jose State?
I liked Intermediate Finance with Bill Campsey.
7. What is your favorite thing about swimming?
I like being outside, and I like the feeling of getting out of the water after a really hard workout, knowing that you’ve given your all, despite the pain.
8. What is one school that you wish you could have swam against in your career?
Probably the University of Illinois, because I went there and it would have been fun to see if we could beat them.
9. Who has been the most influential person in your life?
My parents, because they are strong-willed people and hard workers.
10. What are some of your favorite foods?
Oh gosh. I love junk food. Sweets. I like raw cookie dough, ice cream, Twix, Hot Tamales.
11. Is there any other sport you wish you had competed in?
Probably soccer. I played soccer growing up. That’s what my dad wanted me to do.
12. What would be your dream vacation spot?
I would say Hawaii. I went there when I was in the eighth grade on a family vacation and I’ve always wanted to go back.
13. What are some things you like to do when you’re not swimming?
I like to lay out by the beach and suntan. I also like to run, barbeque and eat junk food.
14. What has been the highlight of your sports career so far?
At (the 2007 Western Athletic Conference Championship), finishing in the top eight and getting an NCAA B’ cut, and (qualifying among the top 16 for finals) at (the USA Swimming Spring Championships in March).
15. What were some of the factors in your personal success in the water last season?
Just hard work, my teammates, and definitely (head coach) Sage’s (Hopkins) support his knowledge of the sport and how to train athletes.
16. What was your experience like at a big national meet like the USA Swimming Spring Championships last March?
It was an awesome feeling to be there. It was sort of nerve-wracking because I wasn’t sure how things were going to play out. I hadn’t trained in long-course (meters) prior to that meet. But it was great to be in New York, and to be able to swim at that level.
17. What are your individual expectations and goals at next month’s USA Swimming Summer Championships and beyond as a competitive swimmer?
I hope to qualify for Olympic Trials (in Omaha, Neb., in 2008) and hopefully (advance to a) final (at summer nationals). It’s going to be a huge meet, so I just want to go there and try my hardest. I’m sure it’s going to be as big if not bigger than (last week’s) Santa Clara International Invitational, (at) which you basically had to swim Olympic Trials times in order to qualify for top-18 or even top-27 finals for some of the events. It would be nice to experience being at Olympic Trials, just to be at that meet and be able to compete.
18. What got you into coaching?
I coached a high school team (this past spring), and I liked being in that competitive atmosphere. Then I started coaching at DACA (De Anza Cupertino Aquatics club team), and I really enjoyed the coaching atmosphere there, working under some top-level coaches and learning even more about the sport, stroke technique, etc., and the philosophy behind everything.
19. What do you like best about coaching?
I like being able to educate people with the knowledge that I have and what I’ve learned. I like being in that competitive setting.
20. What else do you have planned this summer besides training and coaching?
I just got back from a cruise to the Caribbean, to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico. I had never been on a cruise before. That was my vacation. It was awesome.
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