Interview with Winter Track Sprinter Aliyah Cukaj

Christian Pensa, Reporter

Varsity winter sports began in November, continuing the gradual return to normalcy since the lockdown began in March of 2020. High school sports teams, including the ones at Hampton Bays, have looked very different in the time since then. In an interview with senior winter track athlete Aliyah Cukaj, she shared some of her thoughts on what the new season would look like and how high school athletics have evolved amid the global pandemic.

“Last year, practices were completely different,” she said. “We couldn’t have any indoor practices [or] meets. Instead of having them at Suffolk Community College, we would have them at Hampton Bays.” In years past, the boys’ and girls’ winter track teams would compete on the indoor track at Suffolk County Community College. “We’re still going back to [Suffolk], which is a good thing, but we still have to wear masks inside.”

Aliyah acknowledges that there are some hurdles for the team to overcome. “The team is a little bit smaller than usual this year, just because I don’t think there was much interest in it, and maybe because of COVID…also we’re kind of a smaller school,” she continues, “so we don’t have these top runners that some other schools would have that are in our league.” Despite this, Aliyah is hopeful for this season, and spoke about some strengths that she feels the team has this year. “I think some of our best runners are definitely our underclassmen. A lot of them have done cross country, and done track in middle school, so I think they’re adjusting pretty well…we also are working closely with the boys this season, because they have a new sprinting coach who was a sprinter at Stony Brook. So I think that’s really helping benefit some of our sprinters.” With a strong start to this season, things are certainly looking up for the resilient girls’ winter track team.