katie ledecky

Special Post: Women day, Sportswomen

Today it’s International Women’s Day and here at VT Sports we want to join this celebration by writing about five women who have left a profound imprint in the history of women’s collegiate sports in the United States. One coach, four athletes, four different sports.

Pat Summitt

Pat Summitt (Foto de The Tennessee Tribune)

The legendary basketball coach at the University of Tennessee is without a doubt the most influential figure in women’s sports in America. She spent 38 consecutive seasons (1974-2012) at the helm of the Lady Volunteers, collecting a whopping 1098 wins, more than any other coach. Summitt led Tennessee to eight national championships and received the NCAA Coach of the Year Award seven times.

Nevertheless, as this USA Today piece states, her legacy goes well beyond the numbers. Back in the day, conditions were way tougher, even for a Power 5 coach. Apparently, Summitt used to drive the team van and personally wash the players’ outfits after the games in the 70´s. Moreover, the fact that not a single athlete who spent her full eligibility under Summitt failed to graduate is very remarkable. Not a single case of academic failure in 38 years!

She passed away last June at the age of 64, merely five years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer.

Katie Hnida

Katie-Hnida (Foto de ESPN)

In the post about Title IX & gender equality we mentioned women’s football does not exist. Yet, Hnida was a placekicker for both the University of Colorado and the University of New Mexico. How is that possible? Well, after a magnificent kicking season in high school, Hnida was encouraged to join the Buffaloes football roster as a walk-on. While she did not participate in any game, she made history in 1999 for becoming the first female to suit up for a bowl game.

She ended up transferring to the New Mexico Lobos where, through two successful extra points, she became the first woman to ever score in college football’s top tier.

Annika Sörenstam

More than two decades before Spaniard Jon Rahm became an idol at Arizona State University, the Swedish golfer completed two superb campaigns as a member of the University of Arizona. In 1991, she became the first freshman ever to win the individual NCAA Division I National Championship, as well as the first non-American to ever do it. The next season, she led the Wildcats to a Pac-10 (now Pac-12) title run.

As a pro, Sörenstam hoisted 72 LPGA trophies, including 10 majors. She earned over $22 million throughout her stellar career. Furthermore, she was known as Ms. 59, as she was the only woman able to complete a LPGA round in under 60 shots.

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Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky (Foto de NBC Olympics)

Even if she has yet to complete her first full season as a college swimmer, the Washington D.C. prodigy deserves a place on this list. Before enrolling full-time at Stanford University in the Fall 2016, the 19-year-old had already won five Olympic gold medals (one in London 2012, four in Rio 2016). Besides, she’s the current holder of the 400, 800 and 1,500 meters’ world records.

“I always wanted to swim in college. I’m really looking forward to this opportunity,” said Ledecky to the NY Times, who decided to forego millions of dollars in potential endorsements or, at least, postpone those earnings for a year, as the NCAA does not allow professional athletes to participate in their competitions.

Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner (Foto de USA Today)

The current Phoenix Mercury star was one of the most dominant players ever to compete in college basketball. Her height (6 ft 8 in) allows her to dunk the ball. She was the first female college player to score 2,000 points and block 500 shots. In 2012, she led the Baylor Bears to the national title.

Soon after being selected by the Mercury with the first overall pick of the 2013 WNBA Draft, Griner publicly opened up about her homosexuality, aiming to help other athletes in the same situation. In this interview with SI’s Richard Deitsch, Griner admitted Baylor’s PR department forbid her to speak out about her sexuality due to the institution’s archaic stance on the issue.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Text by Pablo Mosquera