Angela Newlon, of O'Fallon, was just eight years old when her mother, Dilek, signed her up for swim lessons at the local YMCA.
It was a day which changed Angela's life. Currently a freshman at Depauw University in Greencastle, Ind., Newlon has spent the better part of the past 10 years in the water.
"After completing the lessons, my mother encouraged me to join the YMCA swim team and I qualified for the YMCA state meet the same year,'' Newlon said. "The excitement of the competitive swimming got me hooked.''
Now 18 and one of the top NCAA Division III swimmers in the nation, Newlon has put that competitive fire, love for the sport and natural talent together during her freshman year at Depauw.
Newlon is one of five Tigers who will compete in the NCAA Division III National Swimming and Diving Championship this coming week at the Indiana University-Purdue University Natatorium in Indianapolis.
The Depauw and North Coast Athletic Conference record holder in the 500 yard freestyle at 4 minutes, 50.91 seconds, Newlon is the top seed and the favorite in that event. Newlon is also seeded 10th in the 400 yard individual medley and will also compete in the 200-yard butterfly and as a member of the Tigers 800-yard freestyle relay team.
The daughter of Steve and Dilek Newlon, Angela Newlon was a member of the YOSI swim team in Belleville for several years before transferring to the Parkway Swim Club in St. Louis during her junior year of high school.
Newlon also was the top swimmer at O'Fallon High School, where she owns several records. A 2013 O'Fallon graduate, Newlon qualified for the IHSA State Swim Meet in the 200-yard individual medley and the 400-yard freestyle in her final two years as a Panther.
O'Fallon swim coach Kim Eddy said he isn't surprised Newlon is excelling at the college level.
"Angela took her time in choosing where she would go to college and Depauw is obviously a great fit. She has done very well this year and has been swimming very strong,'' Eddy said. "I have seen her swim in close races before and she is very competitive. I have no doubt that Angela has the desire and the talent to win at the collegiate level as well.''
From a Panther to a Tiger
Because of her athletic and academic excellence, Newlon had her choice of several colleges when she was being recruited, Illinois State, Kenyon State, Vanderbilt and Missouri State were just a few that she considered.
But when she saw Depauw, her mind was made up. Newlon would go from being a Panther to a Tiger.
"When I went to Depauw on my official athletic visit, I loved the small class sizes, and the university's focus on developing a well rounded liberal arts education while focusing on your subject area really appealed to me," Newlon said. "I love every aspect of Depauw from the academics to the team to the coaches. It's the perfect fit for me.
"Depauw is very challenging. My classes and training keep me very busy. In my free time, I like to hang out with my friends, go shopping and catch on my sleep."
The national finals
The newcomer of the year in NCAC, Newlon's record time of 4:50.91 in the 500 freestyle is the sixth fastest in NCAA Division III history. Only four women have ever gone under 4:50.
Newlon also earned her individual all NCAC honors as she finished third in the 400 yard individual medley and second in the 200 yard butterfly.
Newlon's goals are clear heading into Indianapolis this week. She wants to win a national title and be a three-time first team All-American. Athletes in the top eight in each event are All-Americans.
"I am currently seeded No. 1 in 500 freestyle. My goal is to win it of course but it won't be easy. There are very good upperclassmen swimmers from Emory, Denison and Kenyon," Newlon said. "I'm also hoping to make it to the A finals and finish in top 8 in the 400 IM and 200 butterfly.''
Just as important to Newlon is to represent Depauw the best way she can.
"Being a student-athlete is very challenging. Things can get kind of crazy during the competitive season, but I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. I love representing my university when we compete," Newlon said. That's something I take great pride in. I will continue to train hard and hope that I will keep improving the rest of my three years here at Depauw."
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org