Our spring senior spotlight focuses on how high school athletes are coping with the pandemic and the lockdown...

Each week during the spring sports season we will feature a high school senior who is unable to compete because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will ask them a variety of questions, including how are they dealing with the state’s stay-at-home order when they’re supposed to be enjoying the final months of their senior year in high school.

We will try to include photos we've taken of them over the years, as well as selfies or a selfie-video that shows how they are passing the time at home.

In the spotlight this week is Gianna Sagona, a student at Belvidere North who has been a standout runner in both cross country and track and field. She was looking forward to finishing her high school running career with a bang this season, but instead is trying to stay in shape on her own, and awaiting word on whether there will be any meets to run in at all. She plans to run cross country and be a member of the track and field team for the University of Iowa next fall.

Here is what Sagona had to say on a variety of topics, including how the pandemic has changed her:

Here's a cool video that @BNHSSports star runner Gianna Sagona @giannasagona86 sent me for our first "Senior Spotlight: How High School Athletes are Coping with the Pandemic." Check it out online at https://t.co/FOPb8wn29B, soon... pic.twitter.com/Je1r4rAaya

— Jay Taft (@JayTaft) April 23, 2020

Name: Gianna Sagona

Age: 18

Year in school: Senior

School: Belvidere North

Sports: Cross country and track and field

Accomplishments: Reigning NIC-10 girls cross country champion; sixth place in state cross country as a junior after taking seventh as a sophomore. Helped Belvidere North to two NIC-10 team titles and state titles in 2016 and 2018 in cross country. Overcame leg and hip injuries past two seasons. Finished 18th at state track in 3,200-meter run in 2017. Rockford Register Star’s All Star Preps MVP for girls cross country in 2018.

Greatest sports memory: Making snow angels on our long run.

Biggest sports blooper: Madison (Diercks) and I, my junior year, thought it would be cute to hold hands through the finish line of the pre-conference race. And then they told us we were disqualified for holding hands. That was kind of embarrassing.

Favorite coach: Ken Husser (cross country and track)

Favorite teacher: Mr. Andrew Pavoras (English)

Biggest influence in your life: My mom (Mary Sagona). She’s a really hard worker, and she always shows up to all of my meets.

What are you learning, having to study online? I’m actually in the Running Start Program through Rock Valley College, and I’m taking college classes. The professors have done a really good job communicating with us through Zoom every day and posting videos and stuff online everyday.

What do you do now to keep busy, and to stay positive? I like to draw. I draw and paint a lot.

What do you do to stay in shape right now, or to stay ready for your sport? I run. It’s a pretty easy answer.

What is your favorite thing to do for fun — before, and now? My favorite thing before was hanging out with my friends, especially during and after track meets and the rides back. Now, I’ve been drawing a lot, and that’s my favorite thing to do now.

Favorite sports hero? Des Linden, because she was the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in a really long time. Her saying is “Just Keep Showing Up,” and I love that.

Favorite sports movie? “The Sandlot.”

How tough has it been missing out on your senior season? The biggest disappointment has been not being able to create those senior memories with the girls on the team — every day at practice, on the bus rides home, at the meets. That’s the biggest thing.

How do you think this pandemic and the lockdown will change you? You used to think school was so boring, but not now. It teaches you to enjoy every second you have, and appreciate it. You never know when it’s taken away.

Jay Taft: jtaft@rrstar.com; @JayTaft

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