For Aldo Vega, attending the University of Colorado for a semester was about more than just getting a quality education during his time in the United States for an exchange program, it was about bettering himself as a distance runner as well.
“It’s basically an academic exchange program, but I wanted to make it an athletic opportunity as well,” Vega said. “I had the opportunity to do so here, I am here for a semester…it could be a whole year, but I have six credits remaining and have to go back to Mexico and graduate.”
When starting the exchange student process, Vega narrowed out a few schools that he was interested in attending and contacted their head track coaches.
“I tried to contact two or three different coaches,” Vega said. “It was all because of me, I had to contact different coaches at different universities. I chose one of them was coach (Mark) Wetmore, because there are some Mexican athletes that have been here in Boulder before to run in the Bolder Boulder each year. They told me about the weather and the altitude, and CU was my top choice because of that.”
Once he got the approval from Coach Wetmore to participate for the CU Track and Field team, Vega started the exchange student process.
“I knew about the NCAA and their rules,” Vega said. “This is the last year I am eligible to compete for a University so I am glad that I was able to come. I didn’t know how much paperwork I was going to have to do to be eligible. I spent an entire week filling out paperwork and it was tough, but it could have been worse. I had a friend who came to the US and did the same thing, she went to Texas A&M but for her it took a complete month to complete all the paperwork, so I’m glad it only took me a week.”
Vega thought he knew what to expect when he chose to come to Colorado, he knew the weather would be tough and he’d have some language barriers to overcome, but even with that in the back of his mind the transition wasn’t always smooth.
“The transition has been kind of hard,” Vega said. “The weather has been the hardest part, but the language has been tough because I was supposed to have my English good enough to survive. The weather has been the hardest part, where I’m from I’m used to 95-100 degrees year round so that was hard to get used to...now it’s getting warm, and I’m enjoying that.”
“I think it was as different as I expected,” Vega said. “I was thinking I would have professional environment that I’ve had from the training room to the coaches and all of that. It’s been really helpful and worthwhile.”
When asked what his goals were going into the Outdoor Big 12 Championships, Vega didn’t put any restrictions on where he wanted to finish, rather he just gave goals in terms of times he wanted to make.
“My first goal is to get to the Mexican Elite and I am achieving that goal,” Vega said. “This is the first time I’ve hit the times that I’ve been hitting. I just want to keep improving and staying consistent. This is the first time I’ve tried a 10k in a competitive way, I’m expecting to break 29 minutes.”
Vega finished ninth in the 10k with a time of 29:14.19, narrowly missing the time that he had set as his goal (had he broken 29 minutes, he would have been crowned the Big 12 10k Champion, as the top time recorded was 29:24.21).
“I am glad that I chose to come to Colorado,” Vega said. “Track was my priority in making a decision, I’ve been enjoying it and I am so glad that school is over and I can focus on running. Overall, it has been a great experience; I’d like to stay the whole year, but unfortunately I can’t.”