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Swimmer thrives on double duty

For Anika Apostalon, San Diego State had much more to offer than just perfect weather and beautiful beaches.

The university also offered Apostalon, a former Albuquerque Academy standout swimmer, dual athletic scholarships in water polo and swimming.

After winning a slew of state swimming titles in multiple events, many colleges came calling.

But only San Diego State and head coach Mike Shrader encouraged Apostalon to compete in both swimming and water polo.

Anika Apostalon was a state champion swimmer for Albuquerque Academy, but she also had an interest in water polo. San Diego State was willing to give her that opportunity. (Courtesy of San Diego State)

Anika Apostalon was a state champion swimmer for Albuquerque Academy, but she also had an interest in water polo. San Diego State was willing to give her that opportunity. (Courtesy of San Diego State)

“I was looking at a variety of schools and originally I wasn’t sure if San Diego State would be where I ended up,” Apostalon said. “But having the opportunity to do two sports and getting a chance to know the coaches and the team, I knew it was a great place to be.”

Apostalon spurned offers from Southern Cal, Texas A&M and New Mexico among others to have the chance to play both sports in college.

“It was a little stressful in the beginning just trying to chose if I just wanted to do swimming or if I wanted to do swimming and water polo,” Apostalon said, “but I had to see if I could push myself.”

Shrader was more than happy to give Apostalon a chance to prove that she could compete in both sports.

“A big part of it was where we’re located, obviously we have a great university,” Shrader said. “But she does swimming and water polo and I think that was a big part of having Anika come our way.”

At Academy, Apostalon won the state championship in the 100 freestyle in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and captured the 100 backstroke state title in both 2011 and 2013.

“We were really excited to get her,” Shrader said. “She’s a special young lady. The good lord has blessed me to be able to coach her.”

APOSTALON: Freshman making an impact

APOSTALON: Freshman making an impact

While Apostalon is known around Albuquerque because of her swimming success at Academy, she also thrived in the New Mexico high school Water Polo League, being named MVP in 2012 and 2013.

“Two years ago I started taking it more seriously and joined a club team and I really loved it,” Apostalon said. “Swimming definitely compliments it.”

Now Apostalon is once again making impressive strides in the pool for the Aztecs. After winning four events and leading San Diego State to a first-place finish at the Pacific Invitational in October, Apostalon was named Mountain West Women’s Swimmer of the Week.

“I’m always trying to strive for improving as much as possible,” Apostalon said. “It’s good to have that recognition because I know there’s a lot of other people out there who deserve it as well.”

The freshman earned another MWC Swimmer of the Week award in November, when she set two SDSU records, was the top collegiate finisher and earned NCAA B-cut qualifying times in three individual events.

“I knew she was going to be something special and she has turned out to be that,” Shrader said. “But I wasn’t sure it was going to happen this quick. She’s exceeded my expectations.”

Apostalon’s time of 48.40 in the 100-yard freestyle ranks sixth in the NCAA and is the second best in the history of the MWC. Her time in the 50-free (22.39) is good for 11th in the country tied for third all-time in the MWC.

“My number one goal for her this year is to have fun and I’ve told her that multiple times,” Shrader said. “It’s really exciting to work with her but I think if her goal is to go out and have fun there’s no telling how good she can be. She’s a first class young lady, she’s very easy to coach, she is eager to get better and she really pays attention to detail. She’s really smart and she does everything right.”