One of Fauquier County's iconic coaching figures has hung up her sneakers.
Ellen Allen recently retired following 32 years of service in the county's school system. She taught and coached at all three of the county's public high schools, beginning at Fauquier in 1988 after graduating from West Virginia Wesleyan College.
Allen then moved to Liberty High School for 14 years after the 1994 opening and went to Kettle Run for the last 12 years.
Allen, who had been Kettle Run’s assistant director of student activities and girls basketball coach, departs with the most girls basketball coaching victories in county history at 266, with 239 coming at Liberty. She also has coached girls and boys tennis and track during her career and was Kettle Run's first assistant director of student activities.
By her count, she coached more than 50 seasons in her tenure, leading to many 60-plus hour weeks. "That's a lot of hours after my contractual teaching job," she noted.
Earlier this week, Allen admitted she had been giving retirement serious consideration in recent years. She decided to return for the 2020-21 school year until the school board’s decision to install all virtual learning for at least the first term.
"I was not looking forward to coming back to do something totally different than I had done before," she explained. "I enjoyed teaching because I had interaction with students every day."
Allen recalled a conversation years ago when she posed a question to her mother.
"How am I going to know when it is time to retire? She said, 'Trust me, Ellen, you'll know,'" Allen said. "And she was right. This was the right time."
Paul Frye, Kettle Run's director of student activities, worked with Allen at Liberty before both moved to the new school.
"She was very instrumental in the opening of Kettle Run as the assistant athletic director for eight years," Frye said.
"It is hard to sum up the many contributions that coach Allen has made to the programs at all three schools," he added. "The impact that Ellen made on everyone around her cannot be replaced and will be missed."
Allen is grateful for the support Fye and Kettle Run principal Meghan Brill gave her over her recent decision.
"I've been honest with Paul and Meghan for the last few years. They knew I was on the short end of my career," Allen said. "They were 100 percent supportive and made it easy."
The long-time coach said notifying her current players and their parents was the most difficult aspect of letting go.
Yet, the response has been heartening as word of her retirement spread. "Former students have reached out to me and left nice notes. That's just special," she said.
She takes many fond memories with her, headed by later success of many of her former students in college and employment.
"Athletically, there are so many," Allen stressed.
But two stand out, citing a win over state power Handley for the Northwestern District girls tennis title. The second came in a girls basketball contest at county rival Fauquier. Liberty trailed the hosts by 27 points in the third quarter before staging a monumental comeback win.
As far as future plans, her first response was, "I'm going to play golf four times a week."
Allen said that jokingly, before adding she will enjoy eating dinner with her husband more than two or three times a week. "I'm not jumping into anything. I'm just going to take it day by day," she stressed.
"I call it the icing on the cake because this is not a bad thing. It's time for the next chapter in my life,” Allen said. "I'm doing what's best for me right now."