By Mark F. Gray, Staff Writer, [email protected]
If there was any doubt about the impact that Title IX is having on women in sports, the number of girls who won D.C. Pigskin Club Spring Awards and their impact on high school athletics this year left no doubt. Accessibility and improvements training over the last two decades are leading to more elite performances by high school athletes and college scholarships, while bridging the gaps between generations.
For the third consecutive year, women’s sports were honored equally by the 83-year old organization. The athletes who took home the hardware were not tokens either. They personified how committed student athletes and coaches are breaking gender stereotypes to become elite performers.
“We just thought it was about time to recognize female athletes the same way we had been honoring the men for years,” former Howard University Basketball Coach and Pigskin Club board member A.B. Williamson told the AFRO. “Those young ladies work just as hard as the males.”
The performances of the girls in the Olympic sports is what shows how the generational impact of Title IX has trickled down to the field of play. In an area where most college recruiters were headed to the gymnasium to find blue chip recruits to play college basketball, now major college programs are finding talented athletes to compete and may help them get to the next level.
Montgomery Blair High School’s Courtney Wyche earned four varsity letters during her years as a softball player. When she stepped on campus she basically took her spot on the roster and was as dominant a pitcher as this area has ever seen. Wyche was a four time D.C. all-Metropolitan performer according to the Washington Post and became a first team member of the elite group in 2018.
However, her success on the diamond never affected her performance in the classroom. Wyche was a W.E.B. DuBois Honor Society Scholar with a difficult courseload while competing at a standout level. She is the kind of homegrown talent that the University of Maryland needs to make their run at NCAA College World Series.
“We all have the talent and a lot of God given ability,” Wyche tells the AFRO. “It’s an honor to represent the athletes who came before me.”
Wyche wasn’t the only softball player who landed a major college scholarship offer this year. Bowie High School’s Kennedy Coger was a .600 hitter which led Prince George’s County. Her performance led the Lady Bulldogs to the regional championship. After her exploits this season, she will play for the University of Hawai’i.
The quality of women’s coaching has improved, which directly is attributed to the opportunities that Title IX provided them to compete as college student-athletes. Coger’s head coach at Bowie LuAnn Smith has won 75 of 90 games over the last five years and won the County, 4-A league, and 4-A South Regional Championships.
Paint Branch track and field coach Dessalyn Dillard coaches boys and girls primarily because most public schools can’t afford separate coaches for each team. In six years, she has coached several athletes who’ve won individual awards. This year Dillard led their boys team to the Maryland State 4-A state championship for the first time since 2003.
While young women continue making strides in Olympic sports, basketball still continues to lead the way for scholarship student-athletes in the D.M.V. Each of the Club’s five all-Met players earned major college scholarships including former Georgetown and NBA all-star Dikembe Mutombo’s niece. Malu Tshitenge Mutombo finished her career at St. John’s with a 99-6 record with 1,000 points and rebounds and is headed to the University of North Carolina.