This was not the winter track and field season that Aniyah Walters expected, wanted or enjoyed. But now rested, healthy and energized, she’s ready for spring.
Walters’ winter season was a categorical washout. Only a few days before the Whitman senior hurdler was set to begin the Suffolk outdoor season in mid-January, she tested positive for COVID-19.
Walters said she was tested Jan. 13 after she found out her grandmother had tested positive. Two days later, she received the results and entered a 10-day quarantine.
"The beginning of the week, I was coughing," said Walters, 18. "I really didn’t think anything of it. I thought I had a little cold. Then, on Wednesday, we found out my grandma was positive and we got tested. Friday it came back positive and I started to get symptoms. I started to have bad congestion. I lost my taste, I lost my smell for a couple of days. It was probably two to three days."
Walters said she felt a lot better two days after the positive result and that she continued to improve in the following days.
"I felt like it really left my body," Walters said. "I just felt so much better. It ran its course for a couple days and then I felt fine afterwards."
Walters missed three of the five scheduled dual meets – two as part of her regular quarantine and another as she tested to make sure she was fit to return.
"I still feel 110 percent," Walters said. "It feels like I didn’t have COVID. I don’t believe I have any longlasting effects from it, thankfully. My performance has shown me that I don’t. I didn’t feel tired after it. My body felt fine. My body felt normal."
When Walters started running again, it was early February and only two meets remained in the end of the winter season. But Walters was set on returning.
"In all honesty, I am not the same runner I was [in] the winter season before COVID," Walters said. "I think it’s very important for me to use all the time that I can to get my body back in shape, to get used to hurdling again, because it’s been months and months since I’ve been able to hurdle. So it was mostly to practice. It wasn’t really competition to me. I just really needed to practice to get better."
But while Walters might not be the same runner she was in March 2019, she might be closer than she thinks. Walters said her performance in her two winter meets surprised her, especially considering she hadn’t run a competitive race in 11 months. In her first meet, run Feb. 6 against Sachem East, she didn't run the hurdles but won the 55-meter dash in 7.7 seconds, and ran her leg of the 4 x200 meter relay in 28.4 seconds. She won the 55 in 7.8 seconds and ran a 27.9 second 4 x 200 leg Feb. 13 against Bay Shore.
"I learned that, even with my body completely not in shape, I still have the ability to run very well and perform well, especially when there’s competition in front of me," Walters said. "It pushes me to not let people beat me. I ended up surprising myself because I thought I was going to be a slug out there and I wasn’t."
As one of the best hurdlers on Long Island, Walters is rarely a slug. She entered the winter as the defending Suffolk Large School 55 hurdle champion. She won the same event at the 2020 Suffolk State Qualifier and ran an 8.18 at the Long Island Elite Meet last February, her personal best, according to milesplit.com.
As much of the Long Island high school track scene prepares to transition to cross country next month, Walters said she will not compete until the spring season. As a sprinter and hurdler, the 5-kilometer distance in cross country isn’t something she’s cut out for, she said. Instead, she will enter yet another offseason, a mini-one this time, with the bloom of faster spring times in the not-so-far-off future.
"Since my performance in winter was only two meets, I expect myself to excel [in spring]," she said. "I’m going to be adding new events, like the 400 hurdles, long jump. I want to become better in triple jump . . . We’re not really going to have any state meet, but I want my time(s) to be up there. I want to be number one [in the state]."
Walters also expects to make a college decision soon. She said she has offers from Cornell, Towson, Morgan State and Stony Brook.