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Apr 17, 2017 5:35 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

The Nevel Level: Hampton Bays, Westhampton Beach Alumni Talk About The Ups, And Downs, Of Playing College Sports

Apr 17, 2017 5:35 PM

The Press likes to take the opportunity from time to time to catch up with student-athletes from our coverage area who have continued their athletic careers in college. This week, we spoke with Hampton Bays graduates Shanna Heaney, Trish Liotta and Alex Papajohn and Westhampton Beach graduates and sisters Bella and Zoe Recchion. They spoke about the transition from the high school to college level, their individual goals, and their plans for the future.

Shanna Heaney

Fordham University, cross country/track: After a virtually injury-free career at Hampton Bays, 2013 graduate Heaney had to battle through a number of nagging injuries—mainly stress fractures in her legs—her first two seasons at Fordham. She said it was due to putting a number of miles on her legs in preparation for college competition.

“I ran a ton of miles to prepare for college because that’s what I thought everyone was doing. Turns out it was too many miles,” Heaney said. “I learned from that. I learned what my body can take and that I have to find a happy medium and stop getting injured. I found that I could stay healthy as a middle distance runner instead of the long distances.”

The change has led to a number of achievements for Heaney, including being named the indoor track team’s MVP last season. She was also named captain of that team the past two seasons. This past indoor track season, Heaney was part of Fordham’s 4x800-meter relay team that won the Atlantic 10 championship. She placed eighth individually in Atlantic 10 in the 800-meter race. More recently in outdoor competition, Heaney helped the Fordham women win the Metropolitan Championships where she placed eighth, once again, in the 800.

Heaney is a communications and media studies major with a concentration in news media and a minor in marketing. She interned at CBS this past fall and is currently interning at Sirius XM radio. She hopes to land a job in Manhattan in media, specifically video production. After she graduates, Heaney hopes to continue to run competitively for a running club.

“I’m going to miss school. Everything about it, the location, the people, the friendships I’ve built,” she said. “I’ve felt like I’ve learned a lot of life experiences here and practical experiences for a career. And I’m definitely going to miss running competitively. Hopefully I can keep up with some sort of competition afterwards.”

Trish Liotta

Mount Ida College, basketball: A 2014 graduate of Hampton Bays High School, Liotta was a key member of the Lady Baymen basketball team that reached the regional finals her senior year. Upon graduation, Liotta headed north to play women’s basketball at Mount Ida College, a Division III college in Newton, Massachusetts, a few miles southwest of Boston.

One of the main reasons Liotta, who is about to finish her junior year, chose Mount Ida is its small-town feel. “I love it here. It’s a small-school community environment that cares a lot about its sports,” she explained. “Everyone knows everyone here, it’s a lot like Hampton Bays.”

Liotta was the Mustangs’ sixth man her freshman season and was inserted into the starting lineup the past two seasons. In one of Mount Ida’s final games of this past season, Liotta nailed two free throws with nine seconds remaining to give the Mustangs a 67-66 victory. She finished fourth on the team in points (173) and led the team in three-pointers made (31).

Liotta said playing sports has made the college experience that much better. “I think it was hard at first to balance basketball and classes, but right now I’m pretty much used to it,” she said. “You definitely have to put more time into the sport at college. In high school, you have two hours of practice a day and that was pretty much it. In college, it’s two hours of practice, plus conditioning, lifting. Plus, the games are further away. It’s a lot more time consuming.”

Liotta is a sports management major with a concentration in athletic administration. She would like to be a college coach in the future but she’s going to enjoy the time she has left. In June, Liotta will be traveling to Spain where she’ll play four games in nine days through an organization called Beyond Sport, an international organization that promotes, supports and celebrates the use of sport to address social issues in communities around the world.

“I love the sport so much,” Liotta said of basketball. “It’s been my life forever. To put in all this time and effort, I can’t see my life without it.”

Alex Papajohn

St. John Fischer College, football: It’s been a somewhat slow start to his college football career but Papajohn, a 2014 graduate of Hampton Bays, is hoping it takes off next fall during his junior season. The slow start has been mostly due to a torn labrum that Papajohn, a 6-foot-1-inch, 290-pound offensive lineman, had repaired in February of last year.

“I was not able to come into football camp as prepared as I would have liked,” he admitted. “My main goal for next year is to become a starter. Another goal is to be ready for the upcoming season.”

Other than being far from home—St. John Fischer in Rochester—Papajohn has enjoyed his college experience. He appreciates the small class sizes and the personal attention he gets from his professors. But the transition from high school to college was difficult, he said, due to the increased time commitment he now has to the sport.

“I remember how intense I thought the two-a-days during high school summer camp were, but that is only one part of camp in college,” Papajohn said. “In addition to the practices, you have a full day of workouts, meetings and even meals with the team. And it is not only summer ... football is a huge, year-round time commitment with the most time being during the regular season. Off-season, there are spring practices and workouts. Balancing that with schoolwork was a challenge at first but it didn’t take very long to get used to.”

Even with more than 100 players in the football program at St. John Fisher, Papajohn says there is a close-knit feel to the team.

“The thing I like most about playing college football is the brotherhood and group of friends I have made at school,” he said. “I felt like I was part of a family from the very beginning. I never would have thought that such a big team can be as close as we are. I also love playing on a much more competitive stage than my high school was.”

The Cardinals have been competitive in one of the toughest Division III conferences in the country in the Empire 8, but they have fallen short of the national playoffs the past two seasons, although they have competed in some post-season bowls. Papajohn is ready to help get the team back to where it once was.

“I am committed to contributing to my team to make it to the next level and participate in the NCAA DIII playoffs in 2017,” he said.

Bella and Zoe Recchion

Syracuse University, lacrosse: When Zoe Recchion committed to Syracuse University over three years ago, it came as a package deal. Bella, her younger sister, also made the commitment, early in her high school career, and the two finally were reunited in Orange this season.

The two made their first appearance together on the field on February 18 against Binghamton. Bella scored a goal in that game.

“When we first both committed we were pumped about it. When Bella first got here we reconnected again on the field and it’s cool to have someone like that on the team,” Zoe said.

Zoe has been doing her big-sister duties, showing Bella around campus, and helping her through practices. Still, even with her sister’s help, it hasn’t been an easy transition from high school to college for Bella in her freshman year.

“It’s really different. It’s a lot more stressful and a lot more intense than I expected,” she said. “The practices, the schooling, it’s hard to keep up with both of them.”

Zoe is trying to crack the starting lineup. With nine attackers on the team, and all of them having their own specific skillset, it’s a daily competition in practice, Zoe said.

“It’s tough but I’m working on it,” she said.

With just a year left in her college career, Zoe said she would like to return to Long Island and work with children, either in a hospital setting or as a counselor. She’s also interested in coaching at the high school level. For now, though, the Recchion sisters are looking forward to playing together.

“I definitely want to be playing more with Bella as a senior,” Zoe said. “Whether it’s first or second string, we want to show that we belong.”

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