Beyond the game: Anicka Newell, senior pole vaulter


Sports Reporter

For Anicka Newell, senior pole vaulter, competitive drive was never a question.

Newell’s drive is symbolized by a tattoo on her shoulder, which depicts a dragon and koi fish.

"I got it because of a Japanese saying that when a koi fish swims up the river, it has to go through all the obstacles," Newell said.  "If it doesn't die or get washed all the way back by the time it makes it all the way up the waterfall, it turns into a dragon." 

Her approach involves using past experiences—good or bad—and applying them in order to become better.

"Really it's just the internal drive that I think every athlete has," Newell said. "Either you have it or you don't, and I know that I have it. I know that I'm going to keep working toward the things that I want most." 

Newell showed her competitive drive early in her athletic career before she became interested in pole vaulting. 

Newell competed in gymnastics before entering high school. She remained in gymnastics until she broke her back, which required a year and a half of recovery.

Once Newell was fully healed, she found herself wanting to compete in a sport again.

Newell tried a variety of other sports: swimming, diving and cross-country. None of them appealed to her quite like pole vaulting did. 

Newell drew interest from the New Mexico program as she started to get better in pole vaulting. More collegiate offers eventually came.  

"It would've been nice for her to stay in town," said Tim Newell, her father. "It turned out great for her.”

Tim said Texas State was a good choice for Anicka because she never had experience with tougher competition while in New Mexico.

“I've really come to appreciate her being down at Texas State,” Tim said. “I like the school, her coaches down there work really hard and she has great friends down there. In the end I'm very happy she's there. Texas State turned out to be a really great place for her."

He believes Anicka became accustomed to being the best in high school. She developed an attitude as a result.

Tim knew once Anicka was in college she would be motivated by other athletes who were on her level.

During her freshman year, Anicka found she would need to make adjustments immediately.

"My high school coach was no help at all,” Newell said. “In fact, my first two years here at college, I had to essentially break down everything he taught ‘cause it was wrong. Brooklyn Dixon, the pole vault coach—I got all my technique from her. I've got her to thank for everything." 

Anicka met a training partner and close friend, former Texas State pole vaulter Leslie Ables, during her freshman year.

Ables contacts Anicka often to talk about upcoming meets, give advice and hear how she is doing.

Anicka’s accomplishments include the 2014 pole vault championship at the Sun Belt Outdoor Conference Championships, a silver medal in 2013 at the WAC Outdoor Championships and a third-place finish at the 2015 Sun Belt Indoor Conference Championship.

"She definitely steps it up a level when there is higher competition there," Ables said.  "Every vault she is working her butt off to get to that highest height, to clear that next bar, so she is very competitive. She doesn't take losing. She wants to be the best. It’s in her head that she is going to give it her all or there is no point in doing it."

Follow Jose Campos on Twitter @josewithaj.