In more ways than one, La Jolla High School senior Ariela Stone is a triple threat. She competes in three varsity sports: water polo, swimming and golf. She’s a member of the National Society of High School Scholars. And while she swears she’s “not that good” at American Sign Language, she can communicate in three languages: English, Spanish and ASL.
Oh, and she’s a volunteer tutor, homebuilder and tour guide.
Having played water polo since she was a child, Ariela, 17, plays for the La Jolla High Vikings and the Baja California State Team (with which she recently placed third in Mexico in the 18-and-younger team division). She’s a longtime swimmer, though she didn’t start competing until high school.
“I love the family that I get from water polo,” she said. “The La Jolla High School team is really competitive, so it was really hard at first, but most of us have been playing together since middle school. We just got a bunch of incoming sophomores … that are all very talented. We have a really strong team this year.”
Water polo coach Amy Jennings said that “Ari,” as Ariela is known, plays “one of the most physical positions,” usually guarding the opposing team’s biggest, strongest player right in front of the goal. “Think Shaquille O’Neal in basketball posting up right under the basket, and Ari is the person who guards him,” Jennings said.
She added that Ariela is “outspoken and likes to lead the team in any way she knows how. She is liked by her teammates and will be an asset to the varsity team her senior year this winter season.”
Ariela said her swimming “helps with water polo in that it makes you faster.” Since swim season comes after water polo season, some water polo players don’t like competing in swimming because it’s “boring” by comparison, she said. “But it’s good for our off-season training.”
As a counter to fast-paced water sports, Ariela also plays golf.
“I started during the pandemic because my dad [Ken] wanted me to play with him and it was the only thing open … and my dad thought it was something we could do as a family,” she said. “My mom [Julia] and my brother were OK with it but didn’t really enjoy it. I took to it, so my dad suggested I try out for the golf team and I made varsity. I think since my swing was accurate and my dad says I’m a natural, I thought it was something I could be good at. Plus, it’s a relaxing, fun sport. It’s not as competitive and not as stressful.”
Her golf coach and science teacher, Aaron Quesnell, says Ariela has a willingness to learn. “She puts in the time and effort and is a great team player,” he said. “Golf is usually an individual sport, so we have to teach the kids how to be on a team and rely on one another. Ariela already has that and can work with other girls. … She has a lot going on, so the fact that she can devote time to golf and getting better is awesome. She’s not going to shoot two under [par], but she is going to grind out and do the best she can and not quit. We as coaches love to see that, because not everyone is going to be Tiger Woods but everyone can try their best.”
Outside of her athletic endeavors, Ariela volunteers, often in Mexico. Being fluent in English and Spanish, she tutors students in Tijuana and teaches them to read and write in English through a program she helped start called Pandemic Academics. She also helps build houses in Tijuana through a volunteer club at school. On campus, she leads tours for incoming freshmen.
“I love helping people,” she said. “I was taught from a young age to help others, and even if someone isn’t nice to you, to always be kind. I think that’s a really important moral to have. So doing something to help others makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something.”
Ariela was named to the National Society of High School Scholars in June. The Georgia-based organization says it recognizes “top scholars who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, scholarship and community commitment.”
During her high school career, Ariela has taken honors, Advanced Placement and college classes. One of them was ASL, “which was very hard,” she said with a chuckle. “I’m not very good at sign language. I didn’t pick it up as easily as I thought I would.”
She also has a job and is looking at colleges to attend. She said she relies on family and friends to keep a balance among all her endeavors.
“They help me distract myself from the stress and the pressure when needed,” she said. “My two best friends and I have been friends since middle school and I can rely on them for anything. I also know my mom will be there for me anytime. That helps me more than anything.”
La Jolla Athlete of the Week features athletes from all sports in high school (La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Country Day School) and other local youth sports. We’re looking not only for the stars of competition but also for student-athletes who set an example for teamwork, academic achievement and/or community involvement. Please email your nominations, and a way to reach your nominees, to Editor Rob Vardon at [email protected] ◆