Taking their sports careers to the next level

Many of the students began playing as a hobby, later building a stronger love for the sport.


Photo courtesy of DBHS

From left to right, seniors Kailie Vongsaga, Kevin Vargas, Elisa Kolek, Samantha Padilla, and Brooke Innis have signed with different universities to continue playing their sport at the collegiate level next fall.

While many seniors are still racing to meet application deadlines, seven Brahma athletes officially wrapped up their college search on National Signing Day as they committed to continuing their respective sports at a university of choice.

Swimmers Kevin Vargas and Dylan Hou, soccer players Jaida Wilson, Elisa Kolek, Samantha Padilla and Brooke Innis, and golfer Kailie Vongsaga all committed to universities.

Vargas committed to the University of Florida, selecting the school for its academic record as well as athletic achievements. The Division I school placed high last year in the NCAA championships in recent years and has produced a number of Olympic swimmers.

Vargas was first introduced to swim as a precaution; his parents wanted to teach him the survival skill early in life. Splashing into the water at age five, Vargas dove into competitive swimming at about eight years old.

According to Vargas, his initial expectations involved nothing more than to have fun. It wasn’t until age 13 or 14 that he considered the possibility of pursuing the sport in college. Currently, he swims with a club team and practices every day, totaling 30 hours a week.

Three days out of seven, he’s in the water by 5 a.m. to train until 7 a.m., then follows with another evening session from 4 to 7 p.m. All other days, he practices either singles or doubles. After a decade of dedication, Vargas will reap the fruits of his exertion when he travels to the opposite coast next year.

“I look forward to being with the team. It’s a great group of guys that I got to know because on college recruiting trips, they basically let you hang out with the team and let you experience what it’s like to be on campus,” Vargas said. “I met some of the professors, and they seem really down to earth. They don’t shy away from working with their students.”

Staying more local will be Hou, a club teammate of Vargas’s. Hou chose Pomona College for its small community and close-knit campus culture.

At seven years old, Hou first requested to enroll in his brother’s club team out of boredom. Three years later, he found himself beginning to take the sport seriously after making Junior Olympics.

“Honestly, I think it was just more of a hobby, and then I started competing and meeting different people at these meets,” Hou said. “And then as I started to progress, it just became more of a passion than a hobby and I got more involved with it.”

Recently, just before the last season in his high school swim career, Hou qualified to join the Scholastic All-America Team by competing at Junior Nationals last week in Texas. He plans to continue his athletic endeavors while majoring in economics upon entering the Pomona campus.

Having turned down a variety of top schools including Stanford, UCLA and Northwestern throughout her four years, Vongsaga ultimately signed to the University of Arizona.

“I think weather is something that’s so important to me. As a golfer, I don’t want to golf in rain or snow,” Vongsaga said. “But I also definitely loved the coaches at Arizona, they’re amazing and so supportive. I definitely felt a connection with them, so I felt much at home in Arizona.”

Raised in a family already heavily involved in golf, Vongsaga grew up around the sport.

Although she began competing at about seven years old, she said she did not expect the sport to manifest into a life of constant travel and opportunities to play around the country.

“Golf is a really hard sport mentally and physically and I feel like that really challenges me as a person,” Vongsaga said. “I love that you can get better every single time you get out there. Even if you’re really, really good, there’s so many things that you can still improve on.”

Besides aspiring to eventually go professional in golf, Vongsaga plans to pursue sports management or communications during her studies at Tucson.

In addition, Wilson committed to Cal State Fullerton, Kolek to the University of Las Vegas, Padilla to Hope International University and Innis to Cal State San Marcos.