After about an hour of scaling walls, lugging logs, and trudging and sliding through slippery mud, Cheyenne Syrek, 16, completed her first-ever Tough Mudder 5k on July 21.
And she did the whole thing while wearing her Sweet 16 gown.
The dress, a light blue strapless ballgown with a beaded bodice and plenty of tulle underneath, has actually lived three lives. Cheyenne’s friend wore it to her own Sweet 16 and then passed it along for Cheyenne’s special occasion, held June 2 at an American Legion post in Bay Shore.
“I had a lot of fun at my Sweet 16, so I wanted to make more memories in [the dress],” said Cheyenne, of Bay Shore. “I danced a lot in it and a bunch of my friends stepped on it so I couldn’t ever rewear it, and I wanted to do something interesting with it.”
“Something memorable,” added Vin Syrek, Cheyenne’s dad. “It was actually her mother’s idea to do a ‘Trash the Dress’ type of thing with it.”
Vin Syrek has participated in Tough Mudder several times, and was excited to take on the obstacle course this year with his daughter. They trained together by running the track and up and down the bleachers of Bay Shore High School. The duo also headed to Obstacle Athletics Gym in Deer Park to put their skills to the test, maneuvering through obstacles like those on the TV show "American Ninja Warrior,".
This would all lead up to the big event, a 3-mile, 10-obstacle course in Old Bethpage. And what better occasion, Cheyenne thought, to break out the ballgown one last time?
But prior to Mudder, Cheyenne said she didn’t train while wearing the dress.
“But we should have!” she added. “We just kind of jumped into it.”
When the day arrived, Cheyenne wore athletic attire underneath the dress for some extra mobility. She was excited but scared to see what would become of her beloved gown.
“I didn’t want to see it get ruined, but I knew it was gonna happen,” she said. “It was more anticipation — I wanted to see what would happen.”
Some of the Tough Mudder 5k obstacles include the Berlin Wall — a 10-foot vertical climb — and Mud Mile 2.0, which consists of 8-foot-high mud mounds and 30-foot, waist-deep mud pits.
Cheyenne said the Mud Mile in particular was one of the most challenging, as it involved nothing but “mud and dirt piles.
She added that she was carrying her dress with both hands pretty much the entire time, and never took it off. “The dress gained like 10 pounds when it was wet,” she said.
Throughout the 5k, fellow participants called Cheyenne nicknames like “princess” and “debutante” while onlookers shouted “Happy birthday!” as she passed by, her parents said. By the end of the day, Cheyenne said her light blue Cinderella gown had turned “very many colors” thanks to its new muddy accents.
“I took the dress off right away,” she said with a laugh. “I did walk around in it afterwards; I think I took a picture with somebody.”
Although the dress has been officially discarded, for the Syreks, these memories are forever. Vin and Cheyenne hope to participate in the Tough Mudder Full next year, which is a 10-mile course. Cheyenne even joked about wearing her prom dress for the event.
Perhaps the most memorable part of the day came when the father-daughter duo faced Everest, a 13-foot curved wall that requires a dash forward, a leap, and the endurance to reach the top and trek ahead.
Vin said he turned to his daughter and asked, “Do you think you can do this in the dress?”
“[He] said, ‘Do you want to take it off?’ Because I had something on underneath it,” Cheyenne said. “And I said, ‘No, I can do this!’”
Said Vin, “And she proceeded to, without hesitation, run up the thing and make it on her first shot. And then one of the people watching this happen, turns to this other guy and said, ‘See? She did it in one shot, and she’s wearing a dress!’”