Apex: From a competitive individual to a team player


Katelyn Zhao

Anjali Yella (11) sprints forward in preperation for a long jump. Anjali played basketball and ran track last year, using skills from each sport to improve the other.

by Katelyn Zhao, Sports Editor

Resounding footfalls, cushioned by the spikes of her shoes sinking into the coarse sand, thump closer and closer. Swirls of dust rise, followed by a swish as she springs off the ground with her arms slicing the air in an arc. Sailing several feet, with every limb outstretched, she remains suspended in air. A second later, with the soft crunch of her landing, she finishes the jump with a wide smile. Returning back to where she started the previous long jump, Anjali Yella (11) repeats the motion again. 

Last year, Anjali participated in both winter basketball and spring track seasons. Most of her friends are accustomed to cheering Anjali on the basketball court in the midst of a game when she runs up the court leading a fast break, dribbling past opponents. And with the help of track, her achievements in basketball continue to build.

This past season, Anjali trained in the track and field team and competed in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter dash and long jump events. Although most of her records reside in the 400m event, she favors the 100m for its quick start to finish time. At races, she relies on her experience, preparation and competitiveness to race with success. And even if she does not place well, Anjali uses a loss as motivation to pull ahead. 

“I like to see people beat me,” Anjali said. “If they do, then that only motivates me to work even harder. There’s nothing that compares to when you’ve been working hard and then you finally beat someone and get first place. It’s definitely worth all the work that you put in once you get to that point.” 

Anjali’s sense of accomplishment is fulfilled by picking herself up after losing and regaining a first place title. After placing second in the 400m race and fourth in the 200m at the Central Coast Section (CCS) Track competition, she proved that her efforts in training paid off through her performance. 

“[There is] more pressure [for track] because it’s your race,” Anjali said. “I like feeling dependent on myself and feeling like this is what I put into [the race], and because nobody else’s performance matters. There’s no other stats involved in track and field. It’s your race. I like that better. It’s more definitive.”

Fellow track team member Andrew Fu (12) recognized Anjali’s work ethic through practicing with her. 

“She’s a really hard working basketball player, and work ethic definitely carries over no matter what sport you do,” Andrew said. “She follows our coach’s advice and does her best for every meet. She’s had a bunch of personal records (PRs) this year.”

Anjali Yella (11) dribbles the ball in a varsity girls basketball game against Lincoln High School. The varsity girls basketball team led a strong season last year, making it to the CCS championship final and placing second in the CCS fourth division in February. (Alena Suleiman)

Although Anjali strives for success independently as a track runner, when playing basketball, Anjali enjoys her team’s support on the court. The more carefree and encouraging environment leads to a team strengthened by trust, especially when her teammates “pick it up,” or help each other out, for each other during plays. The varsity girls basketball team led a strong season last year, making it to the CCS championship final and placing second in the CCS fourth division in February.

Close friend Claire Miao (11) started playing with Anjali in ninth grade on the varsity girls basketball team, and for the past two years, they developed their on-court chemistry while also maintaining a bond off the court.

“She’s able to provide the spark that we need during games, so she’s integral [in] shaping us into the team that we are today,” Claire said. “Track helps [her] go faster than any other person. When she gets a steal, it’s impossible to catch up to her on a fast break. Her success in track translates to basketball in terms of her mentality since she knows not to give up after one bad race or game. It’s beneficial that she’s a dual athlete.”

In spite of the advantages track brings for Anjali, basketball taught her a valuable lesson about leadership. Through forming relationships, she learned how to strengthen the team from within so that when it comes to game time, they move and communicate seamlessly.

“When we go into a playoff game and we know the players that we’re facing, we know exactly who’s there to pick up our steals, who has your back when you make a turnover and who’s going to run back up the court and hustle,” Anjali said. “[Once] you get to know your team, you understand how [to] combine [their skills] to help your team maximize your performance.”