It’s a Thursday evening.
I’m watching Alexandra Cimino chop vegetables into clean slices.
She is telling stories, laughing freely, and working the knife with such care that I kind of wish I was chopping vegetables too.
Her nails are perfectly shaped and painted a light blush.
The kitchen around her is perfectly cleaned, tastefully decorated. She could be in an advertisement for the “ideal college student.”
And in almost every way, junior Alexandra “Al” Cimino is that and so much more. The New Jersey native is a hurdler and sprinter for University of Maryland track and field, a passionate cook, talented musician, as well as a dedicated student, in and out of the classroom.
“I do a lot of things, and then I freak out, and then I get stressed out,” Cimino said. “I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. I take on a lot, but I like being diverse and trying to indulge in as many things as I can.”
Coming from an Italian and Dominican background, Cimino knows a thing or two about indulgence. She said that growing up almost all of her meals were home-cooked and her own passion for cooking stemmed from all the years she spent helping her mother and aunts in the kitchen for family gatherings and holidays.
“I enjoy the whole process,” she said. “I love food prep. I love cooking, and waiting for it, and tasting it as I go. The only thing I don’t like is cleaning up, but no one likes that.”
Cimino’s favorite meals come from the Dominican Republic. She said she loves to make arroz con pollo, sweet plantains, and pastelón de plátanos, to name a few recipes.
“Alex has such a great background with Latin flavors … and her cooking can be very traditional if she wants it to be,” said Pat Cole, her boyfriend and a recent University of Maryland graduate. “I’ve recently noticed her creative side coming out, working into the paleo aspect of cooking and looking for healthy alternatives.”
As she cooks I listen to her reminisce about a delicious paleo banana pudding recipe she recently tried and her adventures at Restaurant Week in D.C. last year. The apartment is starting to smell like sweet potatoes and coconut oil. I didn’t come here hungry, but my stomach is starting to growl. Cimino’s passion for food just may be contagious.
Lauren Ball, a senior biology major and a fellow track-runner at the University, said she has learned a lot from Cimino’s cooking.
“My recipes by her are probably her coconut sweet potato rice, which I love making, and her homemade pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese icing,” Ball said.
Though Cimino is studying agricultural resource and economics at this university, she said she goes plan to go to culinary school at some point in her life.
In the meantime, she is heavily involved as a student-athlete. She is the treasurer of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, is one of two student athletes on a Life Skills Advisory Team Committee, and was just invited to join the Athletic Council. On top of all that, Cimino is co-organizing the Student Athlete Talent Show, which takes place in mid-November.
This is not Cimino’s first experience with the “Terps Got Talent” Student Athlete Talent Show. Last year, she and Cole performed a rendition of the Civil Wars’ cover of “I Want You Back,” by the Jackson Five. After winning the show, the two were invited to perform at the Terp Awards, where they took to the stage with a mashup of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”
“Our relationship kind of sparked through music,” Cole said. “When she got down to Maryland her freshman year … she would come over and we would play and jam … I can hold a tune singing, but she can sing very, very well.”
That’s right. On top of it all, Cimino is a talented singer, guitarist and pianist. She said she plays a lot of John Mayer, Mumford and Sons, and other indie-folk music, as well as other artists such as Beyoncé.
“I thought I was going to be a singer or an actor when I was younger,” she said. “But I got into soccer, and when I was in seventh grade I started running track and I immediately fell in love with the hurdles.”
From that point on, Cimino constantly progressed in her athletic endeavors. By the time she was a sophomore in high school she was competing at the national level, and continued to do so through her senior year.
Coming to college, however, was a wake-up call. She struggled in her freshman year (“but that happens to a lot of people,”) intimidated by the older girls she competed against and university-level training practices.
“There are parts of college life that are definitely sacrificed being a student-athlete,” Cimino said. “But it’s awesome having a team. The whole athletic community is a big family. Like, the baseball team lives right upstairs … it’s nice to have.”
And while the college experience of the student-athlete may be very different from that of an ordinary college student, Cimino still has fun. This past Friday, she and Cole were invited to perform their Sheeran-Gaye mashup at the wedding of two friends, who are also track runners who recently graduated from this university.
In the meantime, Cimino is looking forward to both the indoor and outdoor track seasons. She said she is in the best shape that she has ever been in, and looks forward to carrying her good performance from sophomore year into this year’s seasons.
“Just gotta say healthy,” Cimino said.
Featured Photo Credit: Alexandra “Al” Cimino, a junior agricultural resource and economics major with a field study in business management, during an interview. Not only is Cimino a track star, but she is incredibly creative and ambitious as a chef and musician. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)
Daphne Pellegrino is a junior journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.