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The race for girls in sports is on

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By Kelsey Cundiff

Female involvement in sports at Yellow Springs High School has been a much talked about subject over the past year. With the decline in the number of girls participating in high school sports noted by last year’s local women’s sports equity committee, local people, such as YSHS sophomore Paloma Wiggins, are taking matters into their own hands.

For the second straight year, Wiggins, along with the help of many local women volunteers, organized the Simply Women 5k run/walk for women and girls. The run, beginning and ending at YSHS, benefits Yellow Springs Girls Running while raising awareness about the importance of girls’ involvement in sports.

This year’s run, which takes place at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 31, already has 80 registered participants, all ranging in age from 6 to 92, with another 60–70 expected to register on site the day of the event. Runners take off first, followed by the walkers, who make their way along the 3.1-mile course through town and end up at the high school, where fellow athletes cheer them on.

“It was really cool last year seeing everyone at the finish line clapping for the last woman to come in who had never done any type of exercise or athletic event before,” Wiggins said.

At the finish, there are awards for the top finishers in each age group as well as drawings for gift cards to some of the stores downtown.

Along with the 5k, Wiggins was also an active participant in the women’s sports equity meetings held throughout the previous school year. The focus of the meetings was to figure out why and when the number of girls participating in sports drops in high school, as well as thinking of ways to counter that trend. For example, the group took a survey and discovered that the drop off in female involvement happens mainly between sophomore and junior year. At one of the meetings, a panel of women who played sports for Yellow Springs when they attended high school shared the frustrations they had when they played.

Wiggins, a high school athlete herself, sees the many benefits of participating in high school sports. “It helps you stay focused — it helps with time management, and with scheduling. You get support from your team, and [that] can help you through school. People meet people through sports and then make new friends, and it’s just a healthy thing to do.”

With the passing of Title IX in 1972, which prohibits the exclusion of an individual from any educational program or activity on the basis of gender, national female participation in high school sports has risen 940 percent, according to a 2008 study by the American Association of University Women. But the increase has slowed each year, and according to the National Council of Youth Sports, among girls age 16–18, participation in sports went down 24 percent from 1997 to 2000, while sports participation for all other age groups increased. Based on these studies, dwindling numbers of girls participating in high school sports might not be unique to Yellow Springs.

The future of YSHS girls sports is unknown, but Wiggins hopes that her efforts will contribute to the betterment of girls’ sports.

“There are a lot of girls who don’t play sports for different reasons, but I’d hope more people would play so we can have strong, competitive teams,” Wiggins said.

The Simply Women 5k is designed to encourage just that.

The race starts at 9 a.m., with check-in and on-site registration from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Registration forms are available at the Chamber of Commerce and online at Registration is $15. For more information, e-mail or call 767-7607.

*The writer is a YSHS senior and an intern at the News.

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