From ABQ to Tokyo: Andrea Howard's Road to Tokyo
ADOBE SPARK STORY
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.– Every four years, the world gathers for two weeks to watch the Olympics. In those two weeks, regardless of the name of the country or number of representatives, those who participate have the opportunity to see years of dedication culminate on the world’s largest stage. For UNM softball player Andrea Howard, come Summer 2020, she will have that chance.
Over the summer, the Lobo outfielder from Albuquerque and graduate of La Cueva High School played for the Italian national team, a team that she has been with since 2017. On July 27, Italy defeated Great Britain 5-0 in the WBSC Europe/ Africa Qualifier championship game to clinch a bid to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Upon returning from the whirlwind month with Team Italy, Howard shared her experience on her road to Tokyo.
1. How did you get involved with the Italian national team?
Howard: While we were seeing my family in Italy in 2016, my dad looked up softball leagues to practice with while we were there, which led to the coach from the league putting me in contact with the Italian national coach. I am a dual citizen of the United States and Italy. My mother is Italian, and her whole side of the family still lives in Italy.
2. Prior to the qualification stage, how long had you been working out with the team? When did it start, where was it?
Howard: For this summer, I worked with that team since June 20. We first trained in Ronchi dei Legionare (a region in Friuli Venezia Giulia). We had the European Championship from June 28-July 6 in the Czech Republic, then came back to Italy to train in Lignano (another region in Friuli Venezia Giulia), then went to the Qualifier from July 18-27 in Utrecht, Netherlands.
3. What was the entire qualification experience like (from the initial group stage to qualify for the Europe/ Africa stage to the Olympic qualifier stage)?
Howard: The European Championships put us in a good spot to know who our competition was going to be like for the qualifiers because the top six teams in the European Championship would move on to the qualifiers, plus two African teams. In general, the qualifiers was a great experience because the atmosphere at the field was remarkable. Everyone knew what was on the line (ticket to Tokyo 2020), so every team brought their “A” game. It was such a blast to play teams that are just as passionate for their countries as we were for ours.
4. Was there a point that it sunk in that you had qualified for the Olympics? What were your initial reactions/ feelings?
Howard: It still has yet to sink in that we qualified for the Olympics. It still feels like a dream, and I am not entirely sure when it will feel like reality. When we had two outs in the 7th inning, I already started to get a little choked up, so when we made the final out, I started crying happy tears.
5. Looking back at your softball career, was the Olympics something that was ever on your radar or something you ever envisioned you would experience?
Howard: The Olympics was always such a dream to me, and when they cut our sport from the Olympics, it became less of a dream. However, when they added it again, I still never thought I would have this opportunity to represent Italy in the Olympics.
6. What was your favorite memory or experience throughout your time with the Italian national team and going through the Olympic qualifier stage?
Howard: My favorite memory with this experience is chanting our National Anthem on the bus after we qualified. It was awesome to feel so close to a great group of girls, even if they live 6,000 miles away.
7. Was there something that you learned about yourself or about softball through this experience?
Howard: Throughout this experience, I learned that everyone is tougher than they think they are. We can all handle a lot more pressure than we think, we all just have to tap into that potential.
Howard will be a junior this season and returns to the field following a successful season in which she was named to the CoSIDA Google Cloud Academic All-America Second Team.
Lobo Pride Passes are currently on sale for access to the 2020 softball season as well as all home volleyball, women’s soccer, track and field, swimming and diving and baseball events. To purchase, go to golobos.com/tickets or click HERE.