Azusa Pacific junior swimmer Rosalee Mira Santa Ana hopes to swim in the Olympics someday. While her next chance will not come for another four years, she got the opportunity to swim against Olympians at the 10th Annual Asian Swimming Championships in Tokyo from Nov. 14-20.

“It was a good experience to be a part of it because the Asian Championships are only every four years,” Santa Ana said. “To be given that chance to be there is a lifetime experience that I will always remember.”

Santa Ana represented the Philippines at the Asian championships and swam against athletes from over 33 countries across Asia and Europe. European countries were invited to participate as it was designated an “open meet.”

“I just really thank God for the opportunity that he blessed me with. I had lots of adversities that I went through during the semester, but He was able to help me and give me the strength I needed to swim very well,” Santa Ana said.

Santa Ana competed and placed in three events. She got 8th in the 800 meter freestyle (free), 11th in the 200 free and 12th in the 400 free.

“I’m really thankful for the times and places I got,” Santa Ana said. “Just to travel around the world was a cool thing.”

Santa Ana will get the chance to swim against Olympians again at the 13th International Swimming Federation (FINA) World Championships from Dec. 7-11 in Windsor, Canada.

Despite her excitement, Santa Ana said she feels pressure to compete well.

“I’m a little nervous, but it preps me up to be in these world level meets,” Santa Ana said. “Just being there makes me nervous. There’s a lot of things behind the scenes that you have to do.”

This process includes going through a warm room and cold room to prepare, and then walk through specific hallways to enter the pool area and get introduced on the big screen in front of thousands of spectators.

This will be Santa Ana’s first time competing at the world championships. She doesn’t see it as her last.

“The world championships are just the next step. It’s actually the step before reaching the Olympics. I feel like it’s a stepping stone to the highest dream that I’ve been trying to reach for,” Santa Ana said.

The Olympics have been a goal of Santa Ana’s for years. She said she wants to keep getting better until she reaches that level.

“My dream [has been] to be an Olympian ever since I was young. It’s a big dream that you always think of, but I wasn’t sure if it would be a reality. Just to be a part of world level meets make me feel really humbled,” Santa Ana said. “If God gives me the chance to be in the Olympics, that would definitely be a dream come true.”

Santa Ana holds the APU record for the 500 meter free, 1000 meter free and 1650 meter free events. Right now, she is focusing on cutting time in her events to qualify for the “A” group for the NCAA Championships.

“My goal is to qualify for the NCAA Championships this year. I’m very excited if I’m given that chance again,” Santa Ana said.

Santa Ana was not able to go to the NCAA championships last year, but she went as a freshman and ranked 25th in the nation for the 500 meter free and 1650 meter free events.

Head coach Tim Kyle said he has seen Santa Ana’s growth in her time at APU.

“She’s grown in every which way: In her faith, as an individual and really just being grounded in developing. She works tremendously hard in the pool,” Kyle said.

Kyle said Santa Ana is a great representation of APU and is a supportive teammate.

“I’m proud of her for the things that she’s accomplished and I know she’s going to do great things. She has the motivation and the skill, if it’s God’s will, she could reach or attain all the goals she has set for herself,” Kyle said.

Sophomore Elodie Poo Cheong has also helped Santa Ana as a friend and fellow swimmer.

“Rosalee is a hardworking and focused person. She knows what her goals are and she will work hard for them no matter what,” Poo Cheong said. “She’s also doing a great job at balancing her studies and swimming, which is hard at a collegiate level. Competing at an international level means a lot. All the work and sacrifices she put in are paying off.”

Poo Cheong speaks from experience, having also competed at the international level. She has only known Santa Ana for about a year, but said their friendship grows every day.

“We’re really close friends and we genuinely care about the other. We share a lot, whether fun times or less fun times. We push and encourage each other in and out of the water to become better swimmers and better people,” Poo Cheong said.

Along with her goals of making it to the Olympics and NCAA championships, Santa Ana hopes to inspire and teach others to swim one day. She wants to take the stories of these championships and help others learn with them. For right now though, she’s focused on the present.

“I’m just trying my best to take it a day at a time,” Santa Ana said. “Time goes by quickly.”

Santa Ana and Poo Cheong both helped APU close out 2016 by earning “B” cut times in the 500 free, 200 free, and 50 free in the Winter Invitational. The Cougars overall as a team are 3-2 on the season and will continue their season next semester, starting out with a meet against Cal State East Bay on Jan. 14.