Getting Girled: A column on women and athletics

This is the first installment of a new column that will be featured on a monthly basis. The author is a member of Stratton Mountain School's Elite Nordic T2 Team. She is currently a student at Middlebury College.

I ran track in high school. I was a miler. A runner from the Pacific Northwest, where Steve Prefontaine's legacy surges through the veins of every athlete that steps foot on a track, I made it my goal to conquer the 1600. My coaches always told me to focus on the third lap. Far enough from the start to feel adrenaline drop yet a fair distance from the finishing sprint, the third lap presents a mental barrier few athletes regularly overcome. Time warps. Distance stretches. As heart rates rise, confidences fade. While weary runners lose themselves in the third lap, the greatest athletes discover strength. These athletes - those who fear neither distance nor time, proactively facing the challenges ahead of them - these are the champions. They earn their right to cross the finish line.

As an athlete and a feminist, I feel that the women's movement is in the third lap of a mile race. As a society we have come so far since our endorphin-filled start, yet weariness seems to skew our perception of just how much farther we have to go. Particularly in athletics, where the effectiveness, relevance and necessity of Title IX continue to be contested, it appears many competitors are dropping out of the race.

Thus I introduce my new column in the Manchester Journal. Each month, I will investigate and report on women's issues with respect to athletics. As a professional skier for the Stratton Mountain School T2 team and long time soccer player, runner and overall sports enthusiast, I place myself in the center of the political athletic arena and hope to provide a worthy report as such.

My articles will discuss anything from the local athletes and programs like Girls on the Run, to regional and national debates, to international advancements. With the Olympics just around the corner and the current pace of the women's movement, I should not be short of material.

In 1972, a clause of an Education Amendment revolutionized what it meant to be a female athlete in America. That "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance" meant that women no longer needed to have bake sales in order to fund their athletics.

According to the Women's Sport Foundation's (WSF) "2012 Title Nine Report," in 1972, fewer than 30,000 women participated in collegiate athletics. Today, that number exceeds 190,000. Such growth has inspired positive effects as research shows that girls who participate in high school sports are more likely to graduate, matriculate in college and receive higher grades and test scores than non-athletes.

However, the battle for equality is not over. American culture and media continue to sell female athletes short, affording few women the opportunity to pursue athletics to the extent of their male peers.

Additionally, the WSF notes that Division I college athletic departments distribute about 40 percent of scholarships to women, despite having a 53 percent female student body.

Most of all, I hope that my writing can inspire a conversation to continue to progress a mission for equality. If there is anything I hope to prove, it is that we have the training, the strength, and the history to make it to the finish line, we just have to make it through the third lap.


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