Student athlete: Lilliana Malionelk
School: Salem Academy Charter School
Events you compete in: I compete in the mile and the 800 meter.
Are you a team captain: Yes, I am a three season captain for soccer, basketball and track.
Looking back, what made you decide to attend Salem Academy and how would you describe your experience there? I decided to attend Salem Academy because of how strong the school was academic wise, and the sense of community that would be felt within such a small school. My experience at Salem Academy was positive but very different for me than it would have been if I went to a larger school. The community is so powerful with not only your grade level but with the whole school; everyone knows your name and who you are which helped me get the support I needed from both my peers and teachers. I always felt like I had a place to go if I needed help. The sports teams that I participated on allowed me to create friendships with every one of my teammates regardless of how much older and younger they were from myself. There is a big feeling of family at this school and it has really shaped who I am as a person and as an athlete.
What was your reaction when you found out that the spring sports season would officially be canceled? I was very upset because I felt as though I have worked so hard to get to the place that I am for this sport and I wouldn’t be able to prove my growth. Not only that, I wouldn’t be able to spend my last season as a high school student with my teammates. But, I knew that it was something that I needed to accept and hold on to all of the memories from previous seasons in order to cope and move on. But I will always be able to hold these memories and the love I have for this sport close to my heart.
When it comes to track and field, what would you say your favorite event is and why? My favorite event is the 800 meter race. I love the rush that this event gives me, it is two laps so it really allows me to use all of the built up stressful energy to really bring it during this race. I like how it is not too long like the mile but also not as short as a sprinting event. I love to compete with this event because it is a mix of speed and endurance throughout the race.
Is there a particular meet or individual accomplishment you achieved on the athletic surface over the past four years that really stand out to you? A particular meet in which I met one of my goals that really stuck out for me was championships during my sophomore year. I had been struggling that season with many issues off the track that were hurting my performance during meets and I was nursing an ongoing injury with my knees. But, this meet I had expressed all of these challenges I was facing and my coach recognized that it may not be one of my best races but he wanted to support me and he told me that he would be happy as long as I tried my best. For that race, I was projected to place 8th and not score any points. But, with my coach's support throughout the entirety of my event, I was able to clutch the 4th place spot; I beat my personal record and scored a few points for my team. Fourth place that day was, and still is, a win in my eyes.
How have you been spending your extra free time during social distancing/ quarantine? I have been spending a lot of time talking to my friends virtually to still stay connected, and as a way to keep everyone positive during this hard time. I often play soccer with my sister and the backyard, or workout every day to pass time and maintain the progress that I have made.
What other senior activities were you most looking forward to this spring? I was really looking forward to spending time with my classmates for our last few months together before we all went separate ways. I was looking forward to prom as one of our last fun events where we would all be together. Track would have been a highlight as well to close off the year. Of course, graduation as well.
What are you most looking forward to doing once life returns to a sense of normalcy? I am most looking forward to spending as much time as I can with my friends for our last time for a while to be all together. I hope to make more memories with them to make up for the time we lost during our senior year.
What are your plans after graduation? After graduation, I will be attending Emmanuel College in Boston. I will be majoring in art therapy. I hope to continue playing sports at the college level as well.
-- As told to Nick Giannino