Hanna Haxhaj

In the Middle

KO students are often kept up to date on-campus events from last week’s basketball game to the newest meal offered in the cafeteria. However, what is often left out is what’s going on when students set foot off-campus. Some of our community members have very unique hobbies.

One of KO’s own, eighth-grader, Hana Haxhaj, spends much of her time outside of school on the track, dirt biking. After gaining interest in this sport from her brother, she has been competing ever since. When Hana’s brother was 11 years old he got into a dirt biking accident, running into a brick wall, which resulted in his head cracked open. Surprisingly, this inspired eight-year-old Hana to start dirt biking. “I made it my goal to be better than him and not crack my head open,” she said.

However, it was difficult to find a team close by. In Connecticut, for someone Hana’s age there are currently no organizations or teams that she can join. So, Hana began competing alone until she was scouted by other teams, including the New York team she currently competes with now—Empire MX. With this team, Hana practices twice a week with races every Sunday.

Before each race, competitors view the track first, before completing one or two laps around the track depending on the length. The first person to reach the finish line wins. The races are grouped by engine size, the amount of power the bike has. Hana competes in the 250 cubic centimeter group. However, she has made it her goal to one day compete in the 450 cc, the division with the most powerful engines.

What stands out to Hana is the adrenaline rush she gets during the races. “When you’re in the air there’s no feeling like that when you have all the equipment on,” she said. Hana does admit, however, that this sport is very male-dominated. She says that there are only one or two girls, racing in her division, including herself. She does not let this hold her back, and claims that it allows her to get to know her team better. “It’s kind of harder to bond with them, but they’re super inclusive and super nice to me, so they make it easy to talk to them,” she said.

When classmates and teachers find out about Hana’s dirt biking interest it comes as a surprise, as Hana is not one to talk frequently about her life outside of school. “I thought it was super cool, but I was a little surprised because she doesn’t talk about the things she does outside of school very much, but as soon as I knew about it she was happy to tell me more about what she was doing and how exciting it is for her,” said her advisor and chorus director, Mr. Steve Mitchell.

One of Hana’s fellow advisees, eighth-grader Cole Banning, claims that Hana’s interest has helped him gain a better understanding of the sport. “Since she’s in my advisee group I’ve definitely learned more about it and understand the sport a little more,” he said. However, Cole not only admires Hana for her dirt biking success but also for her likable personality. “She’s only been good to me and she’s really nice to other people, too,” he said. Mr. Mitchell agrees with Cole. “I think she is accomplished, but also humble, and that’s a nice combination,” he said.

Hana thinks more people should become interested in her sport. “I would tell people that its a super fun sport and they should participate in it,” she said.