SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- In Union Catholic's latest installment of Feature Friday, the spotlight shines on senior A'Liyah Thomas.

Thomas, who lives in Linden, is the top ranked long jumper in the state, an All-Conference volleyball player, and an Honor Roll student.

You do such a great job representing UC! What do you love the most about competing in track and field and playing volleyball at UC?
What I love the most about competing in track and field and volleyball is that each and every person on our team, especially the coaches, want to see you do well and succeed.The sports teams at UC are all a family, and we all support each other the best we can. Sportsmanship is one of the most important factors when competing in any sport, and UC does a terrific job at that.

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How do you think competing in the two sports has helped you in the other sport? For example, I would think all the jumping drills you do for track and field have helped your elevation at the net and made you become an even better hitter and blocker in volleyball?
My jumping skills in track help me tremendously when jumping at the net in volleyball. Blocking is one of my best skills when playing volleyball because I jump so high, and I am able to get my hands and arms completely over the net. Constantly jumping during the volleyball season also helps once I start track so both sports balance each other out and help in their own way.

I know it must have been tough not having a track and field season last spring. What did you do to stay sharp and improve yourself, and what are your personal and team goals for the upcoming season?
Because I could not run with my team during COVID, I ran at the track by my house and did as much training and jumping as possible so that if we did have a season I would be ready. Running on my own was very challenging because I missed having my teammates by my side, so we can encourage each other, but I made sure I pushed through it because in the end it would all pay off.

Last indoor season was the best of your track and field career so far, highlighted by your long jump victory at the Meet of Champions and a state leading jump and PR of 18-9.5. What did that victory mean to you, and what does it mean to you to be the No. 1 long jumper in the state?
Winning Meet of Champs and becoming No. 1 in the state for the long jump meant the world to me, not only because I worked so hard, but I also made my family very proud. It felt so good to see my name at the top of the list for the top long jumpers in the state. During my indoor season, I worked incredibly hard to get stronger for the end of the season. Even though I was aiming for 19, I knew that as long as I put forth all my effort, I had a huge chance of winning.

Can you explain how the balance between academics, and sports has helped you become a better student, and how important it is to be involved in different things?
Balancing sports and academics has helped me become a better student because over the years I have learned how to manage my time. Time management is very important once I move onto college and to be able to make sure I do all my work and not let sports or extracurricular activities get in the way is most important as a student athlete.

Can you list any awards/honors you have received at UC?
During all my years at UC I have never missed making the honor roll. I’ve always been on either the first or sometimes second honor roll.

What does it mean to you to have achieved some much academic success to go along with all your great accomplishments in sports? Must be very satisfying and exciting to see all your hard work pay off. 
It means so much to me to have achieved academic success along with my accomplishments in sports because I know it could get very difficult with the stress of school and tests and at the same time sports can also stress me out so to be able to stay focused and push through any obstacles thrown at me I’d say is a pretty good accomplishment.

What did you love the most about being a student at Union Catholic?
What I love the most about being a Union Catholic student is how each and every class we have as a student prepares you for your next step, whether it’s the next grade or college. UC is a school that makes sure they get you prepared for where you want to be in life.

Why and how did you decide that UC was the place for you to be? What was it about UC that made you want to be a student here? 
In middle school, I was looking for a high school that would expand my track career and better me as a student as well. UC has many great values, and the track and field team is the best in the state. I wanted to find a school that I thought would be a good fit for me.

What kind of advice would you give to younger students who are considering attending UC? Why should they come to UC and what will UC give them that they won’t be able to find at other schools?
Some advice that I would give the younger students that are looking to come to UC is to be open to trying new things because new things give us the opportunity to learn and grasp more information on different things. The more experiences we have, the more prepared we will be when it’s time to take the next step. UC provides a sense of family that some other schools don’t have.

What specifically can you point to as the things that you’ve benefited from the most from your experience as a student at UC?  
As a student at UC I have benefited the most from my accomplishments in track and having the opportunity to travel with my team to different states and create so many memories.

How about the future? Have you made your final decision yet about which college you will attend? 
My choice was UConn because I felt they were the most like family and the campus was exactly what I was looking for. I gravitated towards the facilities and outdoor track and I overall fell in love with the school. It was also nice to know I had an old teammate (Felicia Quainoo) from my junior year there to help answer my questions and someone to talk to and guide me around the school once I get there.

What would you like to major in and what type of career would you like to pursue?  
I look forward to majoring in Animal Science to potentially go to vet school.

What is something about yourself that most people don’t know? Maybe a hidden talent or hobby?
Something about myself that most people don’t know is that I am very outgoing and adventurous. I love to try new things.

Favorite thing to do in your spare time? 
My favorite thing to do in my spare time is cook.

Favorite class and teacher at UC?
My favorite class is Art and my favorite teacher is Mrs. Schroppe.

Favorite UC Track and Field Moment?  
My favorite UC track and field moments are winning the state championship every year since I’ve attended UC.

Favorite UC volleyball moment?
My favorite UC volleyball moments mostly come from the fun and competitive practices.

Favorite UC event? 
My favorite UC event is the sports awards because it feels great to reflect on my past season.

Favorite UC Core Value and why?
My favorite UC core value is respect because respect is something we use every day at UC and it is the most important in my eyes.

Life Motto? Every day is a second chance.

One word to describe your UC experience? Uplifting

Share one tip for members of the Class of 2024? Never give up on what you want to accomplish.

Union Catholic (1600 Martine Ave., Scotch Plains) prepares a diverse student body to fulfill their college and career goals by cultivating the students' achievement of academic standards of excellence within a value-centered environment, strong in its commitment to our core values (respect, responsibility, honesty, compassion, and community), and to the establishment of a community of faith and love in the Catholic tradition. For more information, call (908) 889-1600 or visit www.unioncatholic.org

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