Shen Girls Run for Each Other

by Kristen Hislop

  Coach Rob Cloutier, Amanda Curtis, Jada Dennis, Jade Dennis, Kara Sinnott

At the beginning of each season the Shenendehowa coaches give an overview of how they think the season will play out. Coach Rob Cloutier is always a bit conservative. He told the Booster Club in December 2019 that he had a young team and as always he was focused on the process and not the outcome. Coach spends a lot of time with his team talking about the process, about being there for each other and legacy. He says, "For Each Other (FEO), I'm not sure when I actually thought it up, but it's always been an expression of how we interact and operate as a team since 2008". That is when Coach Rob Cloutier took the reins of the Shen girls’ program and when he created “legacy.”'

With social media and the utilization of hashtags, #FEO has taken on its own life. The coaches tag, the girls tag and even parents are in on it. FEO is a big part of the Shen Girls running number one in New York in the 4x800 relay at the indoor State meet, in a time that day which was also #1 in the US.

I talked to the team, with relay order Amanda Curtis, Jade Dennis, Kara Sinnott and Jada Dennis, about the win. We didn't publish this for the March newsletter as they were headed to Nationals. Sadly, Nationals were cancelled just a couple of days before the kids were supposed to run at the Armory in NYC.

                                                 Jade and Jada

I've watched these girls run over their careers and feel like I can celebrate right along with them! Jade and Jada are seniors at Shen. Jade is headed to continue her studies and running at the University at Buffalo. Go Bulls! That means when I get out to see Alex run I'll get to cheer for Jade as well! Jada is closing in on her decision and will announce soon. She has some great options and personally I am thrilled for her. Freshmen Amanda and Kara round out the relay. What an experience for them. Watching them run and interact with teammates, you'd never guess they hadn't been walking the high school halls for years.

On to my conversation with them. It could be tough for Amanda and Kara to run with 2 seniors, twins, and girls who have had a lot of success so far in their high school careers. Amanda said it was amazing and she really appreciated the advice on race strategy and of course dealing with race day nerves. "I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to run with Jade and Jada. Their determination and leadership will forever be part of Shenendehowa's running legacy." Kara echoes, "Jade and Jada are among the hardest working people I have ever met. Running with them and for them means everything to me." Kara and Amanda definitely ran for themselves, but also for the twins, wanting to give them their best senior year. This is just a taste of that FEO.

Coach Rob will never say “we are going to win a State title,” but his (and those from his assistant coaches) workouts, coaching, and mentoring quite often lead right there. Most of the time, the kids start thinking about titles and qualifying for Nationals before the coaches do. Sometimes it is in their own heads and hearts, and other times it is straight-up strategy and planning sessions with the team. Jada knew early on this group of ladies had something special going. She says, "The more I spoke with Amanda and Kara, the more I understood their work ethic and mentality. After the distance medley relay (DMR) at the Yale Invitational (where Shen won in 12:11.29 over William Hall in 12:15.6) I knew we could accomplish anything we set out to do!" Kara agrees that it was after the DMR that she thought if they continued to work hard good things would follow. Jade was all in by February. Amanda hadn't yet raced on a relay like this, so, maybe thankfully, the weight and importance of being on the Shen 4x800 hadn't hit her. "The moment I realized we could have a shot of possibly winning, was a couple of days before the race when Coach had me watch previous States races." She went in ready to give it all - for herself and her teammates - FEO.

I really need to include here exactly what FEO means to each of the girls.
Jade: FEO is a mindset where you run for bigger reasons than yourself. A teammate who embraces FEO is an outlier because this mindset means hard work, never giving in to pain/failure, and being a supportive team player even when the outcome was unexpected. When I think of FEO, I also think about the parents, coaches and teammates who work together to see the Shenendehowa T/F team dominate! When you run FEO, it is a mindset that will carry you through your weakest points on and off of the track.
Jada: For me, FEO. is so special! It is much more than a hashtag or a pre-race chant. It represents the hard work and togetherness of a team in pursuit of something that is greater than yourself. Moreover, it means that a young lady is selfless and committed to bringing out her very best for her family, teammates and legacy.
Amanda: To me, our motto, FEO, is truly so special. When I think of FEO, I think of love, determination, drive, and above all, team. Thinking for each other is what gets me through the tough times in a race or workout. I am proud to say the significance and meaning behind FEO is what our team stands for, and how we go about our business.
Kara: FEO means so much to me, when life becomes tough people look for others to help them push through. When any doubt comes across my mind, my teammates are what push me through. When I think of FEO, I think of my teammates, how hard they work every day, I think about how much I love them, and there is nothing that can get between that.

Now for the fun stuff. After the Shen girls run, they typically get some good photos for social media. The relay started doing jump shots. Now for those of you who have tried jump shots - you know it isn't easy. To get a kick back, arms up, and some height solo is tough - then try 4 together. This team does say that practice helped, but after States and running the #1 time in the US that day they managed the perfect jump shot in one try!

Jade and Jada are headed off to college and don't need to worry about the college essay any more. But Kara and Amanda might want to think about the words that their teammates used to describe them. I think they are a perfect starting point for that challenging project. Kara is described as confident, driven and focused. Amanda's teammates used the words poised, headstrong and resilient. Most times we don't see ourselves as others see us, so getting that feedback from teammates who know you well can give perspective. The girls describe Jada as selfless, passionate, and tough. They say Jade is relentless, tough and unstoppable. I had to submit one word to describe me for Women for Tri and my husband came up with unstoppable. I have to agree with that one for Jade :-).

It is SO tough for this group to have missed out on Indoor Nationals. And now for Jade and Jada their senior outdoor season is slipping away. The indoor title meant a lot to them, and thankfully they have a wonderful experience to remember. Jada said "it was the mindset of positivity and confidence that made this State experience one to remember". I know all the kids are working to stay positive. To all the HS and college athletes who are missing their spring season we all feel your pain. Keep running. This experience will change us all, but will make also you stronger, for a lifetime of running and competing.

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