By: Leah Cerami
Franchesca Alejo, a sophomore at Oyster Bay High School, is a busy lady. She is on the high school volleyball team, works a part-time job at Carvel, was the lead in this year’s musical, and even volunteers her time as a catechist in her parish. Amongst her many diverse pursuits is martial arts, an activity that allows her to show a different part of herself than shown in school. In the overlooked sport of Taekwondo, Franchesca has made quite the splash. Although many might not know much about the sport, martial arts is very important to Franchesca, and she has spent many years devoted to her training.
In 2019, Franchesca placed first in nationals, all while studying and practicing to get her black belt, which she achieved in 2021. As if that wasn’t enough, Franchesca has placed in states more often than not. Reflecting on her experience, Franchesca recounted a time when she surprised herself and prevailed over a formidable opponent. She mused, “She was taller and older than me, and I thought that I was going to lose, but I ended up winning the tournament.” Though she has met with great success, Franchesca continues to improve herself, stating that one thing she would like to improve on is flexibility, since that is an important skill to have in the sport.
Franchesca started Taekwondo when she was nearly nine years old, in 2015, and has continued the sport for seven years since. Her father signed her up following a bad experience, so that Franchesca could learn self-defense. Even though in the beginning she may not have been that interested in the sport, she would go on to learn much more than self-defense; before she knew it, she was placing in competitions all over, even when she had doubts that she could not. Franchesca stated that she grew to appreciate the sport because it helps her get her anger out, and she finds herself feeling stronger and more confident because of it.
Before Taekwondo, Franchesca had taken ballet and ice skating lessons. Though she was well-accomplished and made many friends in those sports as well, neither would compare to how she blossomed in martial arts. Franchesca says she often jokes about how she went from such graceful sports to a much more aggressive one, but she would not change that for the world. The friends and confidence she has gained from Taekwondo are now things that she could not see herself without. Overall Franchesca’s coaches, parents, and teammates are proud of how far she has come, and rightfully so, she is extremely proud of herself.
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