Aaliyah Chunn is Skyline’s school-record holder in the girls high jump and a state medalist for the Hawks’ track and field team, and yet her favorite memory from her time in the program has nothing to do with any of her exploits on the track.
Speaking recently about her Skyline track and field experience, Chunn recalled a moment that occurred last season during an away meet.
“I want to say it was the Woodgrove Invitational,” she said. “We had our tent up and we were playing music and other athletes from other schools were coming over and interacting with us, so it was definitely making friends with other people, not just people on our team. That was really fun. I think that was definitely the best memory by far.”
Chunn and fellow senior Kayleigh Grady both pointed out that the friendships they forged were notable byproducts of their careers in Skyline’s track and field program.
Because she spent so much time with them between the indoor and outdoor seasons, Chunn said she grew close with many of her teammates in the program and expressed a desire to return and visit those younger Hawks in the future while she continues her track and field career at Shenandoah University.
Grady, who noted that the Hawks “came together as one” on the track, said there was never a dull moment during the spring season.
“We were always doing something or there was always playing or just joking around,” she said, “so every day was a new experience.”
Grady added that the bond with her teammates contributed to one of the greatest lessons that being an athlete has taught her.
“Family’s not always just blood, it’s also with friends,” Grady said. “We’re all just one big family and we all stood by each other.”
Skyline’s eight seniors – Chunn, Grady, Carrie Gibson and Taja Showers on the girls side, Andres Mendez Becerra, Colin Parsons, Grady Pastore and Jordan Price on the boys team – won’t get the chance to continue building those relationships, or in some cases, have the chance to compete in the Hawks’ track and field program for the first time, after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 spring season.
But Chunn and Grady both said they were grateful for the time they did get to spend in the program, and both will take things with them into their future endeavors.
For Chunn, also a standout volleyball player for the Hawks, she said she learned the value of hard work during her athletic career at Skyline.
“The more work that you put into it, the better outcome you’re gonna find,” Chunn said. “I remember, it started pretty much last year, I started working really hard as far as making sure I was jumping every day, even if we weren’t doing it in practice. It definitely showed toward the end of outdoor season.”
Grady said one of the things that stood out most to her was head coach Steve Burton’s guidance and his ability to help her improve her performance in the shot put and discus events.
“It was just exciting to push myself harder and to know that every year I got better,” Grady said. “And watching coach Burton’s expressions when we would just get a step closer to our goal, it was just amazing.”
Burton said that the premature end of the 2020 spring season was particularly disappointing for someone like Price, a track veteran who was primed to bounce back from an injury that had hampered him at the end of last season, and track newcomers Mendez Becerra and Parsons, who opted to give the sport a try this season but now won’t get the chance to compete.
Burton said that Price, though he was able to qualify for and place in the 800-meter run at the Class 3 State Championships, was slowed by a foot injury during the second half of his junior season.
“He got to the doctor, got it all worked out and was excited about moving into this season,” Burton said. “He was unable to avenge the setbacks that he had last year.”
Pastore, Burton noted, was a sophomore last year but redeclared as a senior this year, and was expected to be one of the Hawks’ leaders in the discus.
“In practice, he had thrown further than anything that he threw last year, so he was looking to be in the mix of the competition (in the Class 3 Northwestern District),” Burton said. “We had the kid from William Monroe that was probably gonna win the district but (Pastore) was gonna be right behind him (in the) district, region and going into states.”
Burton, who specializes in coaching the throwing events, said he remembered Pastore’s excitement when he broke 100 feet in the discus, and a moment during a meet at Park View last season when Pastore, who didn’t realize how well he’d throw in the preliminary flight, had removed all of his gear and was set to relax for the rest of the meet, only to find out he’d had the third-best throw of the initial round and was called back for the finals. Pastore returned and even topped his best throw from the preliminary round, Burton recalled.
Burton added that Grady had shown improvement in the throws this preseason, Gibson was “running well,” and Parsons appeared ready to make an impact in the long and triple jumps and the 400- and 800-meter runs.
“All the seniors were a great group of kids,” Burton said. “We’re really gonna miss the amount of points that we got from Aaliyah and from Jordan.”
Chunn said heading into her final outdoor track season, she knew she was going to have to be someone that her younger teammates could look up to.
“We had gotten some new high jumpers and I think that was really exciting for me, and I was looking forward to the middle schoolers coming over and starting their season, and helping them,” Chunn said. “But then for myself, I was looking to go to nationals, like I was hoping to better myself to get to nationals. Just not getting that opportunity was a bummer.”