Angela Di Palo: far from home, in her element

In year two, Italian swimmer Angela Di Palo is reaching new depths for WSU swim



WSU women’s swimmer Angela Di Palo dives into the water during an NCAA women’s swim meet against University of Idaho, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

LUKE WESTFALL, Evergreen sports co-editor

Angela Di Palo is a sophomore from Afragola and Naples, Italy. She swam for her club team Assonuoto Club Casserta before coming to WSU. 

While part of the club, Di Palo took eighth place in the 2020 Italian Championships. She said she practices with her club coach in Italy during the summer and during winter break and in April she will be competing in the Italian Championships once again. 

The biggest difference between swimming in Italy and at WSU is the combination of school and swim, Di Palo said. In Italy, it is more difficult to study and practice because you study at university and swim for the club team.

Di Palo found her way to WSU through a scouting organization that got in contact virtually with Di Palo and her coach. Matt Leach, the WSU swimming head coach, said he had the inside track on Di Palo.

“Just scouting, and I actually had a contact there that had some athletes under his wings, and he was like ‘yeah they’re looking to come to the United States,’ I said ‘Alright, let’s do it,’” Leach said.

While she seems to have fit in nicely at WSU, the transition from Italy to the US is no small ordeal. The biggest adjustments for Di Palo has been the language and the distance, she said.

“You need to understand what the people say, and the coach, and then the long distance with my family is the other factor, this is the most difficult now that my English is better,” Di Palo said.

This year at the Pac-12 Championships, Di Palo’s family made the trip from Italy to watch her and it was lots of fun to meet with them and smile and laugh with them, Leach said. 

This season Di Palo has accomplished many new feats, including winning a gold medal at the U.S. Open mid-season, setting the school record as part of the 400-yard Freestyle relay team and moving up to third in WSU history in the 100-yard freestyle.

Her performance this year has surpassed her freshman season, but her goal is to continue to improve race-by-race.

Her favorite race is the 100-yard free, simply because it is a sprint, and not long distance, but if faced with a decision her true preference is relay racing, she said.

“It’s more fun in a relay because you are with your teammates, so you’re doing the events with them and not alone,” Di Palo said. “In the relay, even if you’re dying, you want to push yourself to the maximum level.”

Di Palo is one of the team’s top freestyle swimmers. She swam backstroke and breaststroke as a child, only transitioning into freestyle after knee injuries took away her ability to swim other races.

A role has now been solidified on the team for Di Palo as one of the team’s countless up-and-comers among the lower-classmen. The growth of her performance and character is obvious, Leach said.

“I’ve really seen her grow and become more confident in herself, and I think she has a ton of talent. She might not realize it at times, but I feel like she has the ability to be at that next level,” Leach said. “She’s in our top-10 for the 100 free, 200 free, I think she’s going to be a great 500 freestyler, but she would disagree that she’s a 500 freestyler, but at the end of the day she is so much fun and I am blessed to be on board with her.”

Leach has preached leadership and culture all season long, and Di Palo feels like she is now in a place where she can help support the incoming classes.

“I think with the freshman, I know what they’re doing, like how are the dorms, how is the first month of practice, so I feel like I know what they feel and I can support them better because last year I was in the same position and I know what is hard, so I can help with whatever they need,” Di Palo said.

Di Palo is nearing the end of her second season with a chance to put a stamp on it at the CSCAA National Invitational Championships this week. It is the second time she has gone in two years following the Pac-12 Championships. 

There is still a long way to go in her career, and Di Palo is still adjusting to life in Pullman. However, that has not stopped her from blossoming into one of the team’s most colorful personalities with one of the brightest futures.

Nearing the end of year two, not even 5,600 miles can get Angela Di Palo out of her element.