Nestled deep in the heart of Kerr County, on a narrow, winding back road near Hunt, you will discover a prolific artist, with a rich historical background.
Doreen Shann, 79, has become quite the creative artist in recent years. Despite her amazing artistic abilities and a healthy passion for creating artwork, that is not where this story begins.
Her peers at the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center discovered that underneath this talented artist was a hidden gem yet to be discovered.
Shann’s younger years were not spent within the walls of an art gallery, drawing exquisite paintings, encompassing serene and peaceful settings, on a canvas.
While this may be a consuming passion now, it was not her first passion in life.
THE ART OF RUNNING
Shann’s first passion in life was running, and it started years ago, in another country. Born Doreen Helen Porter, she was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand.
And that’s when and where you will find her lifetime accomplishments on the track.
She doesn’t consider her life as being extraordinary in any way, she said. In high school, she simply discovered she was a pretty good runner.
“I was a champion in high school,” Shann said. “I was a champion in gymnastics, diving and the 100- and 220-yard dash.”
That really didn’t matter much to her at the time.
“I just ran because I loved it,” Shann said. “I never thought about it seriously; I just ran because it was fun, and it brought me a lot of joy.”
Shann may not have thought about it seriously at the time, but peers in New Zealand took notice of her special gift.
When she was 15 years old, some of her peers encouraged her to join a running club, Western Suburbs Athletic & Harrier Club.
“We would meet every Wednesday night to compete. It was one of the best clubs in the country at the time,” Shann said
The training and weekly competition pushed her to another level.
“I went to this running club when I first began running,” Shann said. “Nothing really stood out about it until a friend gave me a pair of running shoes. It made all the difference.”
She would run in a stadium near her home in Auckland.
“I remember getting my first starting blocks from a friend,” Shann said.
BECOMING A CHAMPION
“I began competing in the New Zealand Championships each summer,” Shann added. “I was the New Zealand sprint champion for four years at the Commonwealth Games.”
The New Zealand Olympic Team website recognizes Doreen Porter, who went on to represent New Zealand at the Perth 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games and the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games. She received a Silver Medal in the 100-yard dash and a Bronze Medal for the 4x110-yard relay team at the 1962 games.
She barely missed out on selection for the 1960 Rome Olympics, placing in second. New Zealand only allowed one female sprinter to go to the Olympics at the time.
THE TOKYO OLYMPICS
To qualify for the Olympics in 1964, she defeated the same runner who beat her in 1960.
At the peak of her running career, Shann was considered an outstanding sprinter. She had run a 10.4 in the 100-yard dash to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, which was the second fastest time in the world, at the time.
The world record was 10.3 in 1964.
“It was just my luck that it was cloudy and wet the entire time I was there,” Doreen said. “I was so sick at the time.”
Shann said she felt horrible the entire time she was there.
“I had bronchitis and strep throat,” she said. “I ran the 100-yard dash, and I felt terrible.”
She said she still ran fast enough to qualify for the next event.
“I was completely wet when I ran the 200,” Doreen explained. “I just felt terrible.”
Despite being sick, she recalls the experience with much joy and happiness.
“It was pretty amazing. We all had to march out at the opening ceremonies,” Shann said.
LIFE TO THE FULLEST
Shann had aspirations of going further but was sidelined with an unexpected injury.
“I trained harder but had an injury that kept me from running much afterwards,” Shann said. “I am still competitive in many areas of my life, but I don’t run anymore.”
Shann moved to the Hill Country after marrying her husband, Rick Shann, 31 years ago, on April 8, 1980.
IT’S IN HER DNA
Members of her family have become gifted athletes in their own right.
Her granddaughter is Sarah Redding, who was captain and a player for the Texas Tech volleyball team 2015-2019.
Her grandson, Ben Redding, is listed as a tight end for the SMU Mustangs football team.
A LASTING LEGACY
Doreen Porter’s legacy will always live on in New Zealand, and her name will remain on the New Zealand Olympic Team website for winning the 100-yard dash in 1961, 1962 and 1964.
She also won the 220-yard dash in 1961, 1962 and 1964.
Doreen Porter-Shann now resides outside of Hunt, Texas.
She has no regrets, she said.
“I’m proud of my accomplishments,” Shann said. “I used my own determination and God-given talent. It’s in my DNA. I’m an adrenaline junkie.”
She does not run anymore, but she certainly continues to leave a mark on the world around her.
“I’m pleased that I did something phenomenal in my youth,” Shann said. “I’m happy in different areas now: I like to paint and laugh and I enjoy life while it’s here. I live life to the fullest.”
Shann will turn 80 years old in July.
When asked how she will celebrate, the answer was perfectly fitting.
“I will be getting an Olympic Rings tattoo,” Shann said.