Girls go the (shorter) distance


Running is running… Right? It doesn’t change based on race, age, gender, or favorite color; running will always be running.

Not exactly. Just like any other sport, Cross Country for girls is different than Cross Country for boys. But not in the switch order “contact vs. non-contact” or “how much padding you have to wear” sense that applies in sports like lacrosse or soccer. It is distance that makes the two different.

At the Cross Country FCIAC Championship, it is routine for the boys to race a 5k and the girls to race a 4k. However, at state level, both boys and girls compete a 5k. You would think that course distances would be constant throughout the season, but not in Connecticut. So, why do girls run a shorter distance at FCIACs?

The Girls’ Cross Country coach, Amanda Parrish said she views the reasoning behind this policy as “dated” and “antiquated.” When women were first eligible to compete in the Olympics, they were prohibited to run over 800 meters because of the worry that they would pass out or not be able to have children in the future.

“I just ran a marathon yesterday, and did not pass out. I also have many friends who have run marathons and had children, so obviously that thinking has been de-bunked,” Parrish said.

Members of the Staple Girls’ Cross Country team don’t let this policy faze them or influence the amount of passion and determination they have for the sport. In fact, it isn’t gender that determines how practice is organized,;it is skill level. “In training, the top group of boys and the top group of girls do the same workouts,” Parrish said.

In agreement with Parrish, one of the Girls’ Cross Country Team Captains, Kellen Smithson ’14 said, “Girls like Hannah DeBalsi ’16 who are really fast will run with the boys.”

All-American runner, DeBalsi, holds the national 2-mile record time of 10:16.20 for freshmen girls. She thrives for challenge and speed and has an incredible amount of talent. Practicing with the boys gives DeBalsi the opportunity to show what she’s made of.

Although there are girls who practice with the boys at practice, they are still mandated to compete a 4k at FCIACs. Student runner views on the 4k vs. 5k seem to be divided.

One runner on the Girls’ Cross Country team, Caroline O’Kane ’16, does not think the policy needs to be changed because, “boys are naturally stronger and at invitationals we run the same distances.”

Similarly to O’Kane, a runner for the Boys’ Cross Country team, Luis Cruz ’15 said, “Boys are just naturally stronger than girls, and it makes sense to separate them.”

Sexist is a word that comes to mind for some when looking into the policy and these people probably agree with Coach Parrish when she says, “I do think [the policy] should be changed, mostly because it sends a subtle message that girls can’t do as much as boys, when obviously that’s not true.”

The girls on the Staples Cross Country team don’t let the 1k difference get to their heads… or their feet. Keeping their confidence high, legs moving fast, and pony tails whipping through the air, the team ends its regular season undefeated.

Boys’ Cross Country runner, Oliver Hickson’15 said. “Regardless of the difference in distance, the girls did an amazing job at FCIACS, taking home second place.”