FORMER NEW MEXICO PREP STANDOUTS TO PERFORM ON WORLD’S BIGGEST STAGE
The Summer Olympics, officially the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, start this week in Japan and there are some former New Mexico high school standouts competing.
Anika Apostalon, Albuquerque Academy, swimming, Czech Republic
Andrea Howard, La Cueva High School, softball, Italy
Anicka Newell, Highland High School, track and field, Canada
*photo courtesy Instagram (@anika_apostalon)
Apostalon was one of the top swimmers in New Mexico prep history, winning 18 state swim titles (8 individual and 10 as part of relay teams at Albuquerque Academy). She was a four-time state champion in the 100-yard freestyle with the Chargers and still holds state records in multiple events. Apostalon’s time of 22.74 in the 50-yard freestyle in 2013 is still a state record. That same year, she also set the state mark in the 100-yard freestyle (49.41), which still stands today. Apostalon also holds the state record in the 100-yard backstroke (53.78 in 2013). Out of high school, Apostalon chose to compete for San Diego State over Texas A&M, Kansas, New Mexico and USC. Apostalon was the 2014 Mountain West Swimmer of the Year and the 2014 MW Freshman of the Year. After two seasons of swimming and water polo at SDSU, she decided to transfer to the University of Southern California. With the Trojans, she anchored a national championship 4×100-meter relay team in 2016, swimming her leg in a team-best time of 46.77.
In Tokyo, Apostalon will swim on the 4×100-meter freestyle relay team for the Czech Republic. Apostalon was eligible for dual citizenship since her mother is from a city outside of Prague. The women’s 4×100 is scheduled for the opening weekend of the Games (July 24).
Howard was a standout softball player at La Cueva High School. She led the Bears to the 2017 Class 6A State Championship and was named the 2016 Metro Player of the Year. Howard hit 31 home runs over her 4-year varsity career with La Cueva. In 102 high school games, Howard hit .498 with 121 RBIs and 133 runs scored. Howard started all 46 games for the University of New Mexico last season and led the team in batting average (.336), slugging percentage (.728), hits (42), RBIs (33), and home runs (12). Howard will play for the Italian national softball team after an impressive performance during the European Championship. Howard led the tournament in hits, total bases, RBIs and hit six home runs in 11 games. Italy will open competition against the United States today.
“I am looking forward to representing my family, Team Italia, UNM and the city of Albuquerque in the Tokyo Olympics,” Howard said in a statement through UNM. Howard is eligible to play for Italy through her Italian-born mother and holds dual citizenship.
*photo courtesy Team Canada website
Newell is a three-time New Mexico High School state champion. As a sophomore at Highland High School, Newell won the Class 5A girls pole vault in 2009 with a mark of 9’9”. Her junior year, Newell took top honors in the pole vault at 10’6” and helped lead her Hornets team to a first-place finish. In 2011, she set the Class 5A state record by going up and over 11’6”. Newell continued her pole-vaulting career at Texas State. In 2015, she won the Sun Belt Conference pole vault title for a second straight year, setting the conference record.
This is Newell’s second trip to the Olympic Games with Team Canada. In 2016 at Rio de Janeiro, she placed 29th in the women’s pole vault, clearing 13’7”. On the Team Canada website, Newell said her biggest athletic role model has been her dad, Tim. “When I was young, he told me that there are kids in other parts of the world who run to school, so I asked him if we could do that,” Newell said on the website. “From then on, every morning he would carry my backpack and we would run from my house to my school while my friends would wave to me from the school bus as it passed by. I am the athlete I am because of him.”
Newell is eligible to compete for Canada as her mother was born in the country.