Striders cross country team honored at banquet
Mother Nature finally allowed the Seashore Striders to have their annual banquet, postponed from an earlier snowstorm, as 65 athletes, family members and coaches gathered at Irish Eyes.
Following dinner, the room was treated to a wonderful inspirational speech by former Striders runner Laura Olenderski (1997-2001). Olenderski, 26, was a five-year member of the team and a four-time AAU Youth All-American and member of the highest-ever Striders finish, a third place, at the 1999 Nationals in Orlando, Fla. Olenderski also ran the second leg on the 400-meter relay team that finished second at the Hershey Nationals. A two-time first team All-State performer for Cape Henlopen in hockey and softball, she related several youth running experiences and lessons she learned to her high school days when she took home the state’s MVP softball player title her senior year and earned a college scholarship to UNC-Greensboro, graduating in 2010. Laura continues to use running as a part of her fitness routine to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
As a young Seashore Striders runner, Laura was known for her racing toughness, her dedication to off-season training and preparation, and her unbelievable speed at the end of a race.
The program moved on to thank the coaches as each received a framed photo of the team at the national championships. Parent coaches honored were Jay Diaz, Rick Hundley and Derek Shockro, while elite running coaches Enos Benbow and Jen Cawthern were also recognized. Lastly, my assistant coach Dan MacElrevey was presented an 8-by-10 framed photo of the team for his countless hours with the program.
“I have been around this sport for 33 years including coaching, and I know that the Striders program is world class,” said Diaz. “What you and Coach Mac [Dan MacElrevey] bring to these kids - and practically for free - shows something special in your hearts. We are blessed with this program that welcomes all regardless of ability - that does so much more than teach about running. The proof is in the many fine products like last night's speaker Laura Olenderski and countless others who have called themselves Striders. I only wish that more of the children in this region could experience what you do with this program. It is an honor for me to coach and help you with your mission."
Each member of the team was presented with a framed photo of the team as well as an individual action photo.
The last set of awards for the evening were the Special Awards, as we began with the Most Improved going to Brock Diaz of Lewes, who transitioned in one year into a much more focused and determined runner. The Rising Star Award on the girls' side went to sixth-grader Lindsey Guida of Lewes, who is all business when the gun fires, while a talented Luke Burton of Lewes, who finished in the top 10 nationally, grabbed the boys' honor. The Rookie of the Year on the girls' side went to Brooke Jones of Lewes, who engulfed the program, while Jackson Dinger of Rehoboth took home the boys' honor. The Performance of the Year went to Blake Hundley of Bethany Beach, our top finisher at the nationals with a 10:30 3,000 meters to his credit. The Breakthrough Award went to fourth-grader Ethan Shuttleworth of Lewes for his amazing performance at hilly Belmont Plateau, where he ran more than a minute faster than his personal best at regionals. The Coaches' Award is chosen by the head and assistant coaches for an athlete who may not be the best in the race but shows many good qualities like good sportsmanship, teamwork, dedication, and desire which make this athlete a true champion. This honor went to Lindsay Rambo of Lewes. The final award of the evening was the Most Valuable Runner Award, and this went to a seven-time Youth All-American and a girl who has been with the program since she was in first grade. She has finished in the top five in the nation in five of her seven national championships. That person is eighth-grader Logan Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth is not only a most valuable runner, but also a most valuable person as her work ethic, dedication, desire, and the way she was able to take her young team under her wing and guide them through the season were more valuable than any race that was run.
The grand finale of the evening was the season slide show, made by Dean and Steph Shuttleworth, which capped off a very memorable evening with the Seashore Striders family.
1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, 5K Run to the Plunge, Bandstand, Rehoboth Beach, plungede.org.
10 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 15, 9th Valentine's Day 5K & 1M Walk, Fishing Pier, Cape Henlopen State Park, seashorestriders.com.