When four Fanning brothers were slated to form their own track relay team in mid-May for Frontier Schools in Greeley, they didn’t know what all the fuss was about. They’d been doing things like that their whole lives.
When Shane and Amy brought Abuzaid and Kalid home from Ethiopia, their two biological sons, Landon and Jonah, saw them as instant playmates. When Shane came home from work, he’d run around the backyard with them, so much so that Shane, a collegiate runner, didn’t feel the need to exercise during the week. He coached the soccer and basketball teams they all played on together. They played ball and ran and enjoyed mysterious games in the basement that their parents still don’t know the rules to.
When Shane and Amy then brought home ANOTHER boy, Temesgen, whom they all call T, he seemed like the quiet reserved type, until he went downstairs to the basement to find a group of boys waiting eagerly for him.
“He was extremely shy, really never said a word when we picked him up,” Shane says, “and then he went downstairs, and soon after we just heard this laughter in the basement from him having a ball. We looked at each other and said, ‘This is pretty cool. This was meant to be.’”
Amy always believed that. She took a trip with their church, Christ Community, in 2009 and fell in love with Africa. When they walked through an adoption expo hosted by Christ Community, it felt right to her. Shane wasn’t so sure. He took six agonizing weeks to figure it out.
“I wanted to say yes, but there were all the unknowns, finances, everything,” Shane says. “I wanted to say yes, but I couldn’t make my mouth say it.”
He even wanted to say yes on Christmas Day but couldn’t. A day later, it came out of his mouth.
“The minute I said it, all of the doubt was gone,” Shane says.
Their adoption came quickly, mostly because they didn’t care about adopting an infant. Jonah was 8 and Landon was 6. Kalid and Abuzaid were close to their own boys’ ages. It went so well, Shane knew he’d better think about it again when he saw a picture of a boy on the fridge. Amy had been through the waiting lists again and liked a boy who would turn out to be T. This time Shane had no agonizing decision. He loved playing with the boys and figured one more couldn’t hurt.
“That’s how I related to them,” Shane says.
They grew up with some success in sports, both because they had the Fanning genes, either by birth or osmosis, and because they never watched much TV or played many video games: They were always doing something. The relay track team seemed inevitable as they got older, but this year, with Landon, now 18, and T, now 17, graduating, it would be their last chance.
T, in fact, was a track star, snagging a college scholarship for the triple jump and setting (and then extending) Frontier’s school record. So, the coach brought up the possibility with Kalid, 15, a freshman, and Abuzaid, 16, a junior, and the other two. They would run the one-miler, meaning they would each have to put in 400 meters, or one lap around.
Abuzaid does “everything” at track, and T already ran the 400 in addition to his jumping. But Kalid and Landon had never run a 400. They didn’t particularly love running either.
No one knows if four brothers have run on one relay team in Colorado in the past. Two brothers? Sure. Four? No one really thinks so. Even if the circumstances were non-traditional—adoption, of course, made it possible—the Fannings were, as the saying goes, kind of a big deal. The feat was enough for a feature story on the Colorado High School Activities Association website.
And yet, for a bit, even if God instilled a calling to the Fannings to adopt, you could say he didn’t seem too excited about the race, with a hamstring injury sitting Abuzaid out for one meet and a windstorm canceling another. They finally got their chance in early May at one of the last meets of the season in Windsor, and Frontier went a little nuts for it. The crowd wore shirts made just for the event and screamed for them that night. The team wore the shirts, too, and all came out to meet them at the finish.
The boys were a bit taken aback at the attention and appeared nonchalant about the whole thing. They’d done this kind of thing before. But this time, they also recognized that after years of running around the backyard with their father, this might be their final time to play together.
“You could tell by the way they ran hard,” Shane says, “that they were really into it.”