Athlete of the Issue: David Vega ’20


Jeffrey Zhai

David Vega ’20 is a four-year member of the Co-ed Varsity Ultimate Frisbee Team.

David Vega ’20 is a four-year member of the Co-ed Varsity Ultimate Frisbee Team. He started playing Ultimate at Hotchkiss and is currently a co-captain alongside Isaac Alicea ’20 and Sandrine Brien ’20. Teammate, Toby Pouler ’20, said, “David Vega has been the heart and soul of the ultimate team for the past three years, both on and off the field. Either the 22 points he scored in New England’s last year or the fact that he always has a disk proves that. Although David suffered an injury to his ACL in the winter, his leadership never faltered, and Hotchkiss Ultimate was ready for another successful season under his guidance.” 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.


How did you get started with ultimate? 

During my freshman year, after unsuccessfully trying out for Boys Varsity Cross Country and Boys Varsity Basketball, I thought I was going to join baseball in the spring. I had played baseball for the past ten years or so. But, one Sunday in the winter, Alan Wong ’17 came into my room around lunchtime and basically demanded that I “come play pickup Ultimate.” I wasn’t any good at the sport or anything, but Mr. David Thompson approached me and asked me if I had a spring sport. He ended up roping me in and I ultimately signed up to play. 


What is your favorite part about ultimate? 

I would say my favorite part about ultimate is the team culture. I’ve met a fair [number] of my friends through the Ultimate team, both here at Hotchkiss and in the broader ultimate community. In addition, some friendships, like my friendship with Toby Pouler ’20, have definitely become stronger with ultimate. We always go out to throw and play whenever we have time. The same applies with I Lok U ’20 or Harry Li ’20. I love being able to just throw outside the dorms with my friends. I also love the bus rides coming back from games when we get food or when we play “Guess that Song.” Those are some of my best memories of ultimate. 

Vega started playing Ultimate at Hotchkiss his Prep year. (Jeffrey Zhai)

What were your favorite games last season? 

I really loved two games last season. Both of these were games that we won. Of course, I could mention a game that we lost as a “learning opportunity,” but wins are the best and will always be my favorite. 

My favorite game in terms of great team cohesion would probably be our early-season game against Middletown High School. We went into that game nervous and timid. We knew that Middletown was really good last season and that they were going to give us a really tough match-up. We essentially fired [on] all cylinders that game: we were hitting our throws, and we were also having a tad bit of good luck, such as Ian Gill ’19 making all of his throws, which doesn’t happen every weekend. (To which Ian responds, “I’d agree that we got lucky that day. It’s not often I am making all of my throws, and even less often that Vega is able to get through a game without cramping. But, somehow, the stars aligned and both those things became true that day.”) Those types of things started to add up, and the team was getting excited and hyped up. We started to shout and chant, and we ended up having a good time. 

Another memorable game of that year would be our game against Phillips Academy Andover. We went into that game having won the previous three games. This game was no different. Our game was textbook ultimate in how to do a perfect match-up against person defense. Our cuts were sharp; our throws were accurate; our jumps were timed well. Everything about that game was perfect. I’ll never forget the third point of the game. We were up 2-0 and if we got the third point, that was basically the end [of the game]. The game wasn’t done; something could happen, but after that third point we would be really excited and have enough momentum to continue. I had thrown this whacky throw to Toby with one second left on the stall count, and Toby dove with one hand and caught it. It was such an unbelievably lucky play by Toby that at that point I knew we had secured the New England Championship. 


Who has been a role model for you on the Ultimate team? 

Souleman Toure ’19 was a very big influence on me. Ultimate is known to be a game without much competition. I had come from a lot of competitive sports where the competition was a main attraction. It still is important for ultimate, but it’s not the main factor. Souleman was someone who embraced the non-competitive aspect of ultimate. Souleman is extremely cheerful; he wasn’t necessarily the best player, nor the most athletic, but Soule was always super loud, which kept the team positive. If we were down by one, five, or ten, Soule would be amping us back up to get us back into the game. Seeing how Soule communicated with people, seeing how positive he remained, seeing how motivational he was with just his voice, not necessarily his play, was definitely highly instructional for me. 


What advice would you give to incoming athletes or students who are interested in Ultimate?

To anyone coming to Hotchkiss, I would recommend that you take advantage of the opportunities to try something new. It could be anything: it could be academic, athletic, or artistic. Hotchkiss has an extremely supportive community in all facets. You can fail once; you can fail twice; you can fail three times, and there will still be people around you to get you back up. In terms of learning a skill, or introducing yourself to a new community, Hotchkiss is a good place and a good time for you to do that. For me, ultimate was one of those things that I picked up. 

In terms of players looking at ultimate, I would recommend that they stick to it, and think of it as more than simply being a competition. It’s great to meet people on the team and to develop a synergy with the team on the field, on the sidelines, in the Dining Hall, and in practice in order to strengthen the support within the team and also to make the sport more enjoyable. Ultimate is probably the number-one thing that has consistently made me happy on the Hotchkiss campus. Even if I had a rough day in physics, even if I didn’t have a great debate, even if I got into a little bit of a fight with a friend, being able to get out onto the ultimate field to throw hucks at Taylor Clayton ’21, throw with Mike Zhang ’21, catch up with Toby and Asa Tuke ’21, or play with Theresa Yu ’19 – who’s probably one of the best ultimate players in the college game – is a great feeling. All those different aspects make [ultimate] so enjoyable. Stick with it and reach out to people [during] your ultimate career.