The 2018-2019 Athletic Awards Ceremony honored 124 student-athletes, including 32 seniors who have led the Sabers’ varsity teams this year. During the ceremony, Spence Athletic Director Coni Fichera and several coaches took the opportunity to also pay tribute to and thank Denise Adorante and Eileen MacLellan, who are both retiring after three-plus decades of leading the Athletic and Physical Education programs and coaching numerous teams. In special recognition of Adorante’s 25 years of extraordinary contributions as the Director of Athletics (1984-2009), the Athletic Department announced the creation of a new athletic award, The Denise Adorante Founder’s Award, that will annually celebrate contributions to the “foundation of our Spence Athletics culture for excellence.”
The ceremony acknowledged the remarkable accomplishments of the teams who brought home a record number of wins and championship titles this year, including the School’s first-ever national title:
Squash: AAIS, NYSAIS and National Champions
Indoor Track: AAIS Champions
Track & Field: AAIS Champions, NYSAIS third-place and medalists
Badminton: AAIS Runner-Up
Volleyball: AAIS Runner Up
Commendations for the Athletic Award Ceremony’s top awards, presented by Fichera, are as follows:
This group of student-athletes brings honor and special distinction to their teams and, most importantly, their reach extends to touch the entire Spence community. Collectively, they represent the entire program with honor—demonstrating the character of champions, poise and composure of all-stars and a special True Blue pride in their team, sport and their School. Individually they are dedicated, diligent, generous of spirit, and they have raised the bar of expectation for their teammates and presented excellent examples of self-leadership for their teams. Each has represented the Spence program as leaders and role models. We are proud to recognize them with distinction for what they leave with our community: a lofty standard of excellence that others aspire to reach.
Volleyball: Ava F.
Cross Country and Badminton: Charlotte G.
Soccer, Indoor Track and Badminton: Sam H.
JV Volleyball and Badminton: Jade K.
Tennis: Mabel L.
Squash: Chloe P.
Swimming and Lacrosse: Savannah R.
Squash and Badminton: Louise W.
Soccer, Basketball, Track: Marissa F.
Swimming: Sylvie B.
Scholar-Athlete Achievement Awards
In an environment as demanding as Spence, it takes sacrifice, drive, focus and commitment to balance excellence as a leader in the classroom, in the community, as well as in the competitive arena. These two scholars have reached exceptional heights in all three areas, while doing so as team captains, league All-Stars and active leaders in our Spence community. Both are exceptional examples of the embodiment of the true essence of a “student-athlete.”
2019 Scholar-Athlete Achievement Award Recipients:
Mary Ben A. (Softball)
Eliza B. (Softball)
All-Around Athlete Award
This student is a perfect example of what happens when you are able to tune out all the external noise and focus on the internal voice that implores, in the words of Steve Prefontaine, “to give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.” Her internal voice belongs to a tenacious competitor, one that thrives on the challenge is always in relentless pursuit of finding a way to eke out another place at the finish line, or lift her team with a goal at the horn.
Her dogged determination has led her from dance to the cross country trail to the track, but she never strayed from her true calling of being the cornerstone of a fledgling team that five years ago desperately needed her resolve and her daily example of what it looks like to give maximum effort. A multi-sport AAIS All-Star, her commitment to always putting the team first turned the head of every opposing coach. A league medalist in both cross country and indoor track, she became the first 100 career goal scorer in Spence lacrosse history, an exceptional feat considering she is a true two-way player, not an attack specialist, and she finished her Spence career as the program’s all-time leading goal scorer with 125 career goals. And her investment in lacrosse has forever changed the identity of the program.
2019 All-Around Athlete Award Recipient:
Sara Rose S. - Cross Country, Indoor Track and Lacrosse
The White Blazer is presented to the senior student-athlete who exemplifies determination, sportsmanship, cooperation, integrity, dedication, initiative and leadership. The White Blazer represents the willingness to lead by taking the road less traveled and the strength and courage to negotiate that road, regardless of the obstacles or challenges along the path.
She is humble, she is determined, she is talented and as a leader and role model has left her mark on the program and school in countless ways. She was new to The Pack four years ago, but it was quickly evident that she would use her actions to lead, empower, support, encourage and yes—to motivate. New to the sport, she became a student of it, working tirelessly at developing technique, strategy and utilizing her unmatched work ethic as the primary tool for her mastery. She is a fighter, a true competitor that has elevated her team in across all three seasons in each of her four years.
She is the owner of nine school records, something you would never hear her talk about—but what is so emblematic of her contributions to The Pack is what she means to her teammates. They loaded on a bus on a cold and wet Saturday to cheer her on at Federation Championships, they mobbed her when she broke the school record in the 1500m and when she took off on the anchor leg of the 4x400 relay at NYSAIS Championships last Wednesday, going head to head with one of the state’s most respected runners, there was a spot at Federation Championships on the line - every eye was on the track but there was not a doubt in the head of any member of the Sabers, she would do, as she has done since her arrival at Spence...she would Run Fast and Take Chances. Her persistent unwavering support of her teammates, her ability to make THEM believe in themselves because SHE believes in them has been her trademark. She is an absolute champion navigator of the road less traveled and as a true harrier, when she is faced with obstacles on that road, she handles them much like she does everything else, with quiet resolve! I know she will proudly don the Crimson next year, but she will forever be True Blue!
2019 White Blazer Award Recipient:
Eloise F. - Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track
The Marilyn Lunnetta Spirit Award
The Lunnetta Spirit Award is presented in Ms. Lunnetta’s memory to the senior who best personifies the qualities of love of competition, selfless sacrifice for the betterment of their team and Spence Athletics. The most important component, however, is the recipient’s embodiment of Ms. Lunnetta’s own words, “Nothing supersedes kindness, not intellect, not motivation…if kindness leads us, we cannot fail.”
This year's Lunnetta Award recipients are the embodiment of Ms. Lunnetta’s leading with kindness, but in the most eloquently gritty and fiercely competitive way possible. They have overcome adversity, doing so always while always putting their teams first. There is no challenge they won’t take on without a smile, a shrug and knowing tilt of the head signaling, “I’ve been here before and they don’t know who they are messing with!” Opponents and teammates that mistake their kindness for weakness, do so at their own peril! They are tenacious competitors, make no mistake about it, their work ethic, quiet determination and fearlessness in the face of challenge are coupled with the unique ability to make everyone around them better and allowing their teammates to shine. In the most challenging moments, they take on the weight of failure for their teammates. If the set was not just right, if an attacker turned the corner on them, if the leg of the relay was just a touch under the target time - their responses have been consistent throughout each of their careers...“It’s on me.” Never a finger pointed in any direction other than their own. That level of accountability can be daunting, but this year, in particular, it seemed, they fully embraced it! As leaders – there may not be anything more empowering to their young and talented teammates than that example.
2019 Lunnetta Spirit Award Recipients:
Bailey M. - Volleyball
Esme L. - Soccer, Indoor and Outdoor Track
The Denise Adorante Founder’s Award
To see with the view afforded by the shoulders of giants. Those giants possess vision, courage, versatility, relentless work ethic. In sport there are Founders, those that fight the good fight against static, distractions and the status quo, to build and establish culture. They do this in partnership with valued “Culture Keepers” who vigilantly keep a watchful eye to ensure that no shortcuts are taken on the journey. Founders are the tour guides, those who search out the path for the journey, taking us all to see farther and clearer - upon their shoulders. For us, unquestionably, Spence Athletics would not be where we are today without the vision of our Founder, Ms. Denise Adorante. We would not be the Sabers (literally!!) and the “lofty standards we uphold” she set into place in 1984 as the program’s Athletic Director. It is only fitting that this year we add an award that recognizes, celebrates and honors the Founder and architect of the rock-solid foundation of our Spence Athletics culture for excellence, Ms. Denise Adorante.
The Inaugural Denise Adorante Founder’s Award is presented to a 12-season senior student-athlete, one who’s impact on each of her three teams was immediate, transformative and has been instrumental in elevating not just her teams, but our collective program. She knows what is at stake every time she steps on the field, court or track - her athleticism turns heads, her ability to problem solve and adapt to situations, positively alters outcomes and with her teammates relying on her to produce she is resolute in her commitment to deliver with her trademark humility - she is more than content to allow others to stand on her shoulders to shine. This student-athlete challenges those around her by demonstrating an unimpeachable level of personal accountability and self-leadership, and it is contagious, bringing out the best everyone around her. She is a cornerstone, and her unwavering commitment to the pursuit of excellence is the only trait our program’s culture keepers will need emulate in order to sustain the excellence that is synonymous with this recipient of The Founder’s Award.
2019 Denise Adorante Founder’s Award Recipient:
Emma vB.- Soccer, Basketball and Track & Field