Dedication and work ethic can take a college athlete far in their career, and for freshman swimmer Pamela Benitez, it has taken her 2,500 miles away from her home in El Salvador.
Benitez said the geographic transition has been a new experience for her. With the recent drop in Carbondale’s temperature, Benitez said the climate change from her Central American home is a little hard to handle at times, but swimming helps.
SIU will hold the women’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament beginning Thursday at the Edward J. Shea Natatorium, and enter the three-day competition ranked second. Benitez has only lost one event this season, and was awarded MVC Swimmer of the Week earlier this month.
Her success as a swimmer began years before in Central America.
Benitez won eight gold metals at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games. She said after that, she began to look for a scholarship to a U.S. university. When she expressed a desire to move north for school, she said her coach contacted SIU swim coach Rick Walker.
“As I got to know Pamela over the phone, the decisions that she had to make, and the way she handled herself made me confident that I was talking to the right girl,” Walker said. “Ever since she got here, she’s proved me right every day.”
Benitez said her life revolves around swimming. The 20-year-old marketing major said her time spent in class and in the weight room only round out the hours between meets and practice.
“I’ve been swimming nonstop for 14 years,” Benitez said. “It’s a big part of my life. I don’t do much else besides that.”
Freshman swimmer Charlotte Davies referred to Pamela as a good egg — someone she couldn’t say a single bad thing about.
Walker said Benitez has won 12 of 13 individual races this season.
Benitez said despite the upcoming tournament’s intensity, she’s well rested and ready.
SIU will compete against 10 teams during the MVC tournament Thursday through Saturday.