I’m a female collegiate athlete fighting for the future of women’s sports

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I can take a few bumps and bruises. After all, I signed up for this. Playing college sports is a privilege, not a right. Losing sleep, missing classes because you’re traveling, taking care of sore muscles and maintaining a strict training regimen — they’re all part of the game when you’re a collegiate track and cross-country athlete. 

But what I signed up for was running against similarly advantaged competitors — other women. What I have experienced, and seen repeated across the nation, is a different story, and it’s why I’m speaking out. 


I was born into a family of college athletes in Ohio and ran my first race at the age of 5. Running has had my heart ever since. In high school, I was a three-time All-Ohioan for cross-country and six-time track All-Ohioan. 

The allure of the West drew me to Southern Utah University and, after meeting the track coach and the girls on the team, I fell in love with my new family away from home. 

I’m heading into my senior year at Southern Utah and run cross-country and track in the fall, winter, and spring, specializing in events including the 1,500m, 3k steeplechase, and 5k. Competing at this level takes every ounce of your dedication and energy, but it is so rewarding to play the sport you love. 

At my time here at SUU, I, along with my teammates, have set the school record in the distance medley relay. At the 2022 Big Sky Outdoor Track and Field Championships, I scored in the 3k steeplechase and 5,000-meter run. This year I was also able to break into the top-10 list in the 1,500m and 5k, as well as reach into the top five in the 3k steeplechase. 

I wake up every day excited that I’m able to run, and that I have the privilege of training my body to become stronger and faster. I also now realize the fragility of fair competition and how easily it can be taken away from female athletes. 

One day at practice during my freshman year, our coach told us that another team in our conference had an athlete who had previously competed on the men’s team who now identified as female and would be competing against us. This biological male runner had posted the same time in the 1,500-meter as the fastest woman in the world in that event — 3:50. Now, it was my teammates and I who were being forced to compete against someone who had already broken the female record. 

By Madisan DeBos

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