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Saint Mary’s seniors reflect on their athletic experiences

| Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Each year, the Saint Mary’s athletic department hosts a variety of events to bring the programs closer together. Twice a year they host an event called “Why We Play,” in which seniors from each sport share their experience with athletics. While this was only the fourth year Saint Mary’s has hosted “Why We Play,” the tradition was first started at Kalamazoo College in 2001 by former Kalamazoo head volleyball coach, Jeanne Hess.

This year, soccer player Kellen Hinchey and cross-country runners Shanan Hamilton and Katie Glenn spoke. Hinchey, a three-year captain of the Saint Mary’s team, started off the night, speaking about her experience with soccer.

“I want to start this off with a quote most of you will probably know,” Hinchey said. “In Lilo and Stitch Lilo says ‘Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind.’ If you replace Ohana with soccer, you’ve got my family.”

Being the youngest of six, Hinchey said she was exposed to soccer at a young age, attending practices and often playing with those much older than herself. She said she always knew she wanted to continue playing for as long as possible.

“It wasn’t a question of if I would be playing soccer in college, but where,” Hinchey said.

Through a tough first two years of soccer with lots of ups and downs, Hinchey said she stuck with it and found a team that she could call her family her junior year.

“The personalities and talents of the current sophomores and juniors who have stuck around through thick and thin have turned around my entire soccer experience here,” Hinchey said. “I finally had a college team that I felt comfortable with and this year it only got better. The team this year has reminded me why I play soccer, not just for the love of the game but because my teammates are my best friends and my Saint Mary’s family.”

Shanan Hamilton shared a very different experience. Hamilton joined the cross-country team her sophomore year of college without prior experience with the sport, save for a lifelong love for running.

“When I first started running it was very late in my career,” she said. “The first trickle of running I ever had in my life was in middle school when I was the only girl on the basketball team who loved running suicides.”

After a difficult first year of school at Saint Mary’s, Hamilton wanted to transfer. Instead, she reached out to cross country coach Jackie Bauters to see if she could join the team. After working all summer to get her 5k under 22 minutes, she was on the team.

“I never had a connection to Saint Mary’s my freshman year, but when I got to wear the French cross on my jersey, I felt a part of Saint Mary’s,” Hamilton said. “This was my team and my people, and I was finally a Belle.”

Katie Glenn took her own original spin on the “Why We Play” format.

“I could’ve never guessed that I’d end up where I am today, so I thought it would be interesting to write a letter to my middle school self, give her a little heads up, tell her why she ends up where she does today and why it’s the best thing that will ever happen to her,” Glenn said. “Dear Katie, that boy with the curly hair who you think is really cute? He’s gay. You’re welcome.”

She then went on to speak about her struggles to live up to the expectations of her Division-I athlete siblings and her conversion to the sport of cross country — a sport she never expected she’d participate in.

“‘Why we run’ is an impossible question to answer, because for us, it’s never been a question,” Glenn said. “Asking why we run is like asking why we breathe — it’s what we do. Why would you ever stop doing something that gives you so much in return? How could you ever stop doing something that has taught you to never stop pushing?”

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