Having achieved success recently in open water competition, Lindsay Vrooman of Economy, Beaver County, has turned her attention back to the pool as she prepares for her first international meet as a second-year member of the USA Swimming national team.
Vrooman, an Ambridge High School graduate and former Indiana University swimmer who trains with the Hoosiers, will compete individually in two events at the FINA short course world championships Dec. 3-7 in Doha, Qatar.
Vrooman, 23, made the national team this year as one of the six fastest female swimmers in the United States in the 400-meter freestyle (4 minutes, 7.82 seconds) and 800 freestyle (8:29.06). She finished fourth in the 800 freestyle and sixth in the 400 freestyle at the U.S. national championships in August in Irvine, Calif.
Ray Looze, her coach at Indiana and a U.S. team coach, said Vrooman will face a stiff test at worlds.
“I believe she can qualify (for finals), but (she) will need to really make a huge push to win medals,” Looze said. “This meet is hard to predict for her since she has never competed (in) short course meters.”
Vrooman’s best finish so far came last December at the Winter National Championships, where she was runner-up to Olympian Katie Ledecky in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Vrooman was 24th in the 800-meter freestyle at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Vrooman said her chief goal is to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. To improve her prospects, she is entering more open water events.
One of 42 finishers, Vrooman was eighth in women’s 10K (one hour, 59:52.010 seconds) at the USA Swimming Open Water National Championships in June at Lake Castaic, Calif.
She took first place in ladies 5K (58:15) at the Barbados Open Water Festival in Carlisle Bay this month.
Because it is an Olympic discipline, USA Swimming spokesman John Martin said it is not uncommon for national team members to compete in open water.
Vrooman, who took up open water swimming in high school, finds it challenging.
“It’s all about strategy,” she said, noting the difficulty of racing swimmers in the same path.
Indiana associate head coach Mike Westphal said open water provides swimmers a change of pace.
“The training is similar and gives them a break from the pool,” he said. “(We) add some things into (workouts) to help with open water.”
Looze said Vrooman, who swam independently in high school because Ambridge did not have a team, possesses rare qualities.
“She has a pain tolerance uncommon (for a woman), (which) has allowed her to push the limits of her athletic achievement past what some would have predicted,” said Looze, pointing to her ability to recover quickly between practices. “Lindsay has more high level workouts than any female we have coached.
“She sets extremely high expectations for herself.”
Vrooman, who studied exercise science at Indiana, is considering becoming a physical therapist.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.