Pitman High swimmer Rick Vander Veen officially signed his National Letter of Intent on Tuesday afternoon to continue his athletic and academic careers at Adams State University in Colorado.
Though his senior season still awaits, Vander Veen has established himself as a cornerstone for the Pitman aquatics program. In each of his years with the Pride, Vander Veen has served as the swim team captain. Last season in his junior year, he went undefeated in the 500-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke to win CCAL titles.
“If you would have told me back in the Seadogs days, ‘You’re going to college to a D2 school,’ I would’ve said, ‘No way,’” Vander Veen said. “I’m just so grateful to everyone who has helped me on this journey.”
Among the many in attendance for the signing was Ryan Randall, head coach of Merced Skimmers swim team. At the beginning of Vander Veen’s tenure with Randall and the Skimmers in 2020, he timed 28.50 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle, 1 minute and 2 seconds in the 100-yard freestyle, and 6 minutes and 11 seconds in the 500-yard freestyle. Today, he times 24.20 seconds in the 50-yard, 52 seconds in the 100-yard, and 5 minutes and 10 seconds.
“When Rick joined the program, it was clear he had a good work ethic and loves to race,” said Randall. “I’ve seen the hard work, the practices, the meets year-round for three years, and he’s earned every single second he has dropped… Rick made Pitman Aquatics better, he made the Merced Skimmers swim team better, and he will make Adams State University better.”
While Randall credits the work ethic, Vander Veen gave praise to his supporting cast.
“Looking back on it, when you’ve dropped time and improved like I have, when you’re surrounded by good family, good friends, good teammates, good competition, it makes it so much easier,” Vander Veen said.
While dominating in the pool, Vander Veen has maintained an overall 3.6 GPA. He explained that he will continue his higher education by majoring in Outdoor Education and Stewardship.
“I just want to be around the outdoors,” he said. “I love the outdoors and they have a good program, like to work in National Parks and wildlife and things of that sort. So being able to do that while still being able to swim is amazing.”
Vander Veen will kick off his senior season with the Pitman High swim team on Feb. 25 at home against Hilmar.