Couples that compete together, stay together

Valentine’s Day week is upon us and many couples will be indulging in all things romantic. However, some athlete couples won’t even be in the same city. This is the case for basketball player Travis Valanne and track and field runner Kelly Brennan. They will be apart while Valanne plays against University of New Brunswick Saint John.

“Times like that, it’s kind of hard to deal with. But it’s kind of what you signed up for at the beginning, and we both understand that,” said Valanne.

Brennan, a third-year criminology and human rights major, and Valanne, a third-year history major, have been dating for two years. They met at a house party and got to know each other through mutual friends.

Kelley Brennan goes to all of Travis Valanne’s home games that she can, and he streams her track meets online. (Haley Stairs/AQ)

Despite conflicting schedules, they balance it well. Brennan goes to every home game she can, and he streams her meets online when she’s away. Apart from that, they see each other any other time they can find.

“We each have a two-hour gap, but we have a lot of homework, but we’ll just go … [and] do that together, so you’re still spending time together but you’re not neglecting other responsibilities,” said Brennan.

They both know where the other is coming from, and that’s the key to making it work.

“You just have to be relaxed, be patient, you have to understand that they’re just as busy as you are,” said Valanne.

“They’re not always going to be around when you want them around.”

Emily Donelle, a second-year sociology and history major, and Kristen Bulman, a third-year psychology and criminology major, have been on STU’s women’s rugby team as a couple for over a year. They became best friends on the team in 2016 and started dating after finals.

“Because our relationship started with rugby … every season we play together, is —” said Bulman.

Kristen Bulman and Emily Donelle work had to try and keep their relationship and rugby separate. (Haley Stairs/AQ)

“Is just normal,” Donelle chimed in.

For them, having the same understanding and not being competitive with each other on the field has made their relationship work.

“We basically just live with the same mentality that you’re in a relationship outside [of] rugby,” said Bulman.

Juggling school work and rugby can be difficult for them, but they find a way to support each other.

“Having someone there for you at the end of the day is like, the best part about it,” said Bulman.

“We know when we have to focus on homework, and then we can just have fun and do stuff for us,” said Donelle.

They have shared special moments through being on the same team. After placing second in finals in 2017, Bulman bee-lined to celebrate with Donelle.

“She was the first person I wanted to go see and go talk to after the game. It was really nice to have that person that I could go right to, like, I didn’t look at anyone else,” said Bulman.

Shannon Morris, a fourth-year psychology major, and Katie Merritt, a third-year sociology major, have been a couple on STU’s women’s rugby team for two years. They started dating after the season ended in 2016 and live together. They estimate spending over 65 hours a week together during rugby season.

“Honestly you could argue almost every waking minute,” said Merritt.

Shannon Morris and Katie Merritt spend about 65 hours a week together during rugby season. (Submitted)

It can stressful to spend so much time together, according to Morris. But it has helped them grow as a couple and forces them to communicate.

Although their experience has been pretty positive, they still face challenges.

“We’ve had to fight really hard to be almost not seen as a couple … we are having to like, create a divide [because] people automatically group us together,” said Merritt.

Morris and Merritt have a pre-game ritual they do that helps calm Morris’ anxiety.

“One thing that helps is before every game … we lock pinkies, and then kiss thumbs,” said Morris.

“I loved rugby before I loved Shannon,” said Merritt. “I guess to be able to share that with someone … It’s just super cool.”

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