Ximena Lechuga Gonzalez: A small splash of inspiration for SDSU’s young divers | News


Before becoming one of San Diego State University’s most decorated female athletes and then named to the Mountain West’s 25th Season Swim and Dive Team, Ximena Lechuga Gonzalez (’23) nearly gave up on the sport.

Her journey to record-setting success began unexpectedly at age 8. Initially aspiring to be a gymnast, she faced limitations due to the lack of training facilities in her hometown Tijuana. It was her mother who suggested diving as an alternative. “It’s like gymnastics but in the pool,” her mother encouraged.

By the age 18, Lechuga Gonzalez wanted to quit competitive diving. She had competed for years as part of Baja California’s diving team, balancing her rigorous training with home schooling in order to accommodate her demanding competition schedule and travel commitments.

As offers from various U.S. colleges poured in, however, Lechuga Gonzalez started contemplating diving. One of those colleges was SDSU where the sport competes for attention.

“Students asked, ‘where are the dive tanks?’” Lechuga Gonzalez recalled with a laugh. As in deep water diving. 

Her SDSU coach, Roland McDonald, played a pivotal role in her decision-making process. After her first visit to the university, Lechuga Gonzalez canceled the remainder of her campus visits. The decision was made: SDSU was her new home and the SDSU diving team was her new family.

“I immediately fell in love,” she said about her visit to SDSU. ”The campus is so pretty, the team, I just loved it.” 

At SDSU, everyone was genuinely invested in mutual improvement. For Lechuga Gonzalez, there was no shortage of support, especially from her teammates, who formed a tight-knit sisterhood within the swim and dive team. 

“It was just perfect; they were all there for you to be better, like no one was jealous if you beat them … it was just continuous support,” said Lechuga Gonzalez. “Everyone is there to help you, everyone wants to see you succeed.”

Her teammates not only provided crucial support for her diving career but also served as a profound source of inspiration, especially during the challenging times when balancing academics with 20 hours a week of practice left little time for even a nap.

“Being surrounded by 20 plus incredible women who are always pushing you to be the best version of yourself … inspired me to be a lot better,” said Lechuga Gonzalez. “If they can do it. I can do it too.” 

Lechuga Gonzalez aimed to strike a balance between her personal life and athletic career. She highlighted the importance of prioritization and effective time management to handle all her responsibilities. 

During her time as a student-athlete at SDSU, Lechuga Gonzalez achieved more than three remarkable groundbreaking records for SDSU’s diving team. Her most recent accomplishment was being selected as one of the 35 athletes for the 25th Season Team for Swimming and Diving by the Mountain West Committee

Not only did she win new records for SDSU’s diving team, she also broke her own records. Currently, Lechuga Gonzalez holds SDSU’s two top records in each 3m springboard and platform diving.

Lechuga Gonzalez credits her teammates and coach as essential contributors to her achievements and the honor she feels toward her records.

McDonald was a key factor throughout the five years that Lechuga Gonzalez competed at SDSU. 

“I think that since the very first day we really clicked together. He understood the way I needed to be coached. Maybe I didn’t like it every single day, but he knew how to push me to get better … He knew I could do big things and he pushed me to achieve them” Lechuga Gonzalez said.

The coach-student connection helped in shaping Lechuga Gonzalez’s coaching style, especially now that she serves as a volunteer assistant coach for the team. She dedicates her time sharing her diving expertise to her peers and new talents waiting for discovery at SDSU. By understanding both the athlete’s and coach’s perspectives, she aims to blend these insights to improve her friends’ training efforts.

“It’s also fun to see both sides of them, not only as friends, but also coaching them, and because they’re my friends, yes i’m gonna push them … I want them to succeed and do better,” she said.

“I know they can do great things,” she added. “You just gotta believe in yourself to actually do it.”

Apart from coaching, Lechuga Gonzalez has prior experience supporting others within the athletic community. While at SDSU, she was part of the International Student Mentor program, pioneer of the creation of the program which was founded in 2019 by Danielle Kelly. The program’s objective was to foster greater engagement and a sense of conclusion among student-athletes from different countries all around the world who joined SDSU’s community.

Lechuga Gonzalez understood what it felt like transitioning from a different country, reflecting on her own journey from Mexico to pursue greater opportunities in her diving career. She focused on making the student experience more welcoming for new student-athletes by providing support with connecting to campus resources, homework and tutoring. 

She has remained committed to this initiative — from its beginning until she graduated in spring 2023, and now as a coach, always ready to lend a hand to her fellow athletes.


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