As members of rival colleges competing in the Southeastern Conference, Alicia Viveros and her younger brother Daniel are giving new meaning to the term sibling rivalry.
Alicia, who is 18 months older than her brother, is a thrower at Mississippi State in Starkville, located about 100 miles southeast of Oxford where Daniel will be entering his second year as a thrower at Ole Miss.
Suffice to say, like dogs and cats, the two schools historically don’t like each other much.
But that's not the case for the Viveros siblings, who learned long ago that family comes first.
“It’s really funny because I was actually friends with all of his teammates before he got there,” said Alicia, who is entering her senior year academically and as an indoor track and field athlete, but will be a junior for the outdoor season due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I mean our schools are rivals in like everything, but in track and field we’re usually really friendly. So it’s actually kind of funny because I’ll go hang out with him and his team and then he’ll come hang out with me and my team. It’s funny because people will look at us and say, ‘hey, you two are supposed to be rivals’ and we’re just hanging out with each other.”
The special bond between the sister and brother started early on, well before the two established themselves as two of the best athletes in Kern County history.
“I think it started with them being so close in age and having just themselves as playmates throughout their younger age,” said Jamie Viveros, Alicia and Daniel’s mother. “And the gender wasn’t really much of an issue. They just played whatever they were playing, whether it was cars or dolls or whatever. They just played together until a certain point, then of course when sports jumped in, they started supporting each other.”
That support started with the two attending each other's games and practices growing up and eventually to the two providing more technical advice as two elite throwers.
“At first, Alicia would always give Daniel pointers,” Jamie said. “And then eventually after they got to college, with Daniel’s success, he’s giving her some pointers. He’d tell her, ‘this is what you’re not doing,’ so she’ll send him a video and say, ‘ok, what’s going on?’
“So they have such a tight bond there that they’re able to feed off of each other. And then just personally, they’re the first ones they want to talk to. But it’s always been that way. They’re going to be there to support each other. So it was never ‘I want to go hang out with my friends or somebody else.’ No, no. We didn’t even have to have that argument about supporting your sibling. They were already doing it.”
And there’s been plenty to celebrate.
Alicia earned BVarsity All-Area honors as a middle blocker after helping the Liberty volleyball team capture the Central Section Division I volleyball title as a senior. A few months later, she won the section shot put title, followed by a fifth-place finish in the state. She was seventh in the discus.
At the same time, Daniel was establishing himself as one of the top throwers in the state as a sophomore. He finished his high school career with back-to-back state titles in the shot put, becoming just the third athlete in California history to eclipse the 70-foot mark.
“It speaks to their dedication and their commitment to be good,” said Rod Chronister, the Viveroses’ throwing coach since they were in elementary school. “They were raised by two great parents obviously that put the time into their kids with schooling and raised them right. So when it came to sports, they put that dedication toward all of their sports. It just happened that track and field was a sport they were made for.
“They were strong, they were explosive, they were able to listen and comprehend what you were telling them. And things just took off for them. For me to see that it’s obviously exciting.”
Liberty track and field coach Ryan Renz added, They’re both such great athletes and they come from a great family. They will both be remembered at Liberty for a long time because of what they accomplished.”
Choosing a career path
From the time she was a sophomore, Alicia was recruited by several four-year colleges, including some on the east coast. To help her make her decision, Jamie and her husband, Leonard, planned a trip to New York and Boston to help their daughter get a better feel about what things might be like.
What they accomplished during their 10-day trip turned out to be life-changing for Alicia. While passing by a hospital in Boston, she heard several stories about the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon terrorist attack.
“We were taking a tour and someone mentioned that after the Boston Marathon a bunch of people had lost limbs and how they worked with them to help give them back their quality of life,” Alicia said. “I don’t know why, but it really touched my heart and so I really wanted to do something like that."
Choosing a college
Alicia’s interest in biochemical engineering helped steer her to Mississippi State, which she says has one of the top engineering programs in the country.
Daniel, a biological science major, also had a unique experience when trying to make his college choice. After several recruiting trips, he received an unexpected message from Ole Miss. He was actually on a visit to Indiana when Rebels’ coach John Smith contacted the Hoosier’s coach to inquire about Viveros. When the family landed at LAX, a text from Smith greeted them — along with an offer to Daniel of a full-ride scholarship.
After taking a visit to Oxford, Miss., Daniel was hooked.
“The Coach there has had somebody in the Olympics every year since 1980 I think,” said Daniel, who was also a BVarsity All-Area lineman for the Liberty football team. “So he’s just had a huge success in throwing. He just has an incredible weight room and helps people get super strong. And with Alicia being so close and a full-ride (scholarship), and really couldn’t ask for anything else really.”
Going away to college
Moving away from home for the first time can be difficult, and Alicia and Daniel’s experience was no different.
“With Alicia it was very tough because obviously she was the first one to go,” Leonard said. “There were a lot of tears … everybody … mom, myself and Daniel. That was a very tough thing to do, to let her go so far away. She got a little bit homesick here and there. Once it was Daniel’s turn, it wasn’t as hard because we knew he was going to have a great coach. After we met him, we knew this is where he belonged, and Alicia was going to be just an hour and a half away from Alicia. I think that comfort level was a lot higher knowing they were going to be so close to each other.”
Performing at the next level
Alicia’s confidence was shaken when she first started competing at Mississippi State.
“It’s definitely been a step up from high school because the conference that I’m in is crazy talented,” Alicia said. “It really shocked me when I first got there. I mean I knew how good it was going to be, but it’s different when you see it. I went to my first meet and I was competing against like six different state champions. It was crazy.”
Despite the competition level, Alicia has had her share of success.
She broke the school record in the shot put with a toss of 15.33 meters late in the indoor season, and had her sights on MSU’s discus mark when the outdoor season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. She also holds the school freshman record in the shot put (14.41).
“(College) has been pretty successful for me,” Alicia said. “I’ve been able to set records at Mississippi State and I just try to make finals at meets because everyone there is like one of the tops in the nation or are competing to go to the Olympics so it’s pretty crazy.”
Despite the success, Alicia is planning to hang up her track cleats after this season. She will be performing as a senior during the indoor season, but is still eligible for two more years on the outdoor circuit.
“We’ve discussed it, especially with Alicia, that there’s going to come a point where sports are going to end,” Jamie said. “What are you going to do at that point? And how are you going to react to it? There’s always adult leagues or something else that you can do, but know when that time comes, when you’re not ready to go to the next level, then you don’t have to, and we’re ok with that. This is your choice. We helped get you to this point, everything else now is up to you.”
Finally being healthy
The future path appears to be different for Daniel, who suffered through a torn ligament in his right elbow this season — and perhaps longer.
Late in his sophomore season, he suffered a hyper-extended right elbow during football practice for the Patriots. He played out the season, only to find out he had torn a tendon in his elbow. Following rest and physical therapy, he says he was pain free for his sophomore and junior seasons, although he had difficulty straightening his arm.
The pain returned late in his senior year, and bothered him again during his first indoor season at Mississippi. He competed in six meets, setting a personal record in the college shot put with a 17.65-meter toss at the Vanderbilt Invite.
Once the ligament injury was discovered, Daniel received an injection to help with inflammation and the recovery time of the damaged ligament. He has since finished physical therapy and is looking forward to being pain free for the first time in years. He also has regained full motion of his right elbow.
“I want to go as far as I can,” said Daniel, who is throwing a shot put in college that weighs 16 pounds, four pounds heavier than in high school. “Most the guys my coach brings in get back to wear they threw in high school. If I’m able to do that then I’m in Olympic standard range. So I’m hoping that that’s eventually where it takes me, and not only that, the injuries and stuff that I’ve dealt with in high school, my coach feels like I can throw even farther. Just hearing that, it makes me think that if I keep improving, and keep trusting the process, that I will have a chance to throw in the Olympics in a few years.”
As the Viveros children continue on their journey, one thing is for certain. Family will continue to come first, and that's not something they are likely to forget.
“We’ve always rooted for each other and everything we do is always about family, and being honest,” Alicia said. “Growing up that was one of the main things my parents always talked about was being honest and being kind; having empathy for others. And Daniel and I try to do that with everything we can. And you don’t want to treat others how you wouldn’t want to be treated, so I think that’s mostly what we try to do.”