‘Heartbreaking’: Mother Speaks Out After Daughter Loses Track Meet To Male Athlete, Says Parents Are Being Silenced


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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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  • A transgender athlete took second place during the 1600-meter race at the CIF-North Coast Section Meet of Champions in California on Saturday.
  • The mother of one of the female runners told the Daily Caller News Foundation the situation is “heartbreaking” and explained that students and parents won’t speak up because it could be interpreted as “bullying.”
  • “Again and again, female athletes are being pushed aside to make room for biological males in women’s divisions,” Payton McNabb, a spokeswoman for Independent Women’s Forum and North Carolina high school athlete, told the DCNF.

The mother of a California track and field athlete who lost to a biological male during a Saturday meet described watching the female athletes compete against the male athlete as “heartbreaking” during an interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Athena Ryan, a biological male from Sonoma Academy, placed second in the 1600-meter race during the CIF-North Coast Section Meet of Champions on Saturday, knocking the fourth-place finisher out of a slot for the state championships. The mother of one of the runners, who requested to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation, described the situation as unfair and explained that parents and students are afraid to speak out on the chance opposition is construed as “bullying,” she told the DCNF. (RELATED: Female Athlete Who Competed Against Trans Swimmer Decries Attempted ‘Censorship’ Of Her Speech)

“It’s heartbreaking to see what happens to these kids and how scared they are to even show the slightest bit of body language that might indicate that they aren’t happy with it,” the parent said. “They’re, like, forced to celebrate it.”

The mother shared her daughter’s school district’s 2021-2022 Student-Athlete Code of Conduct, which is required to be signed by both the athlete and the parents, with the DCNF. The document prohibits athletes and parents from engaging in “hate speech,” which includes bias against a person’s gender identity.

Ryan raced against the daughter during the 2022 CIF-North Coast Section Meet of Champions, despite having previously competed in cross country in the men’s division, the mother told the DCNF. When she raised concerns to the school athletic director, she was told that officials were “powerless” to do anything because of a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) policy that permits athletes to compete as their self-identified gender identity which is derived from California law.

Neither the runner’s athletic director nor the school district responded to the DCNF’s request for comment.

“California law permits students to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records,” Rebecca Brutlag, CIF media relations officer, told the DCNF. “Additionally, in accordance with California law, CIF Bylaw 300. D. provides that students should have the opportunity to participate in CIF activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on a student’s records.”

Ryan clocked a 4:55.91 during Saturday’s race and told MileSplit after the race that the goal was to run below 5 minutes. The first-place winner clocked a 4:51.77, and the third-and-fourth place runners finished in 4:56.22 and 4:58.63, respectively, according to meet results.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Ryan said. “I’ve dropped like 17 seconds on my season best in the past two weeks so after last weekend I didn’t think I could run low 5s again. I was just coming here trying to break 5 and I’m just glad I finished it out.”

Ryan passed several runners during the final 100 meters of the race, the mom told the DCNF. He advanced past two runners in the final stretch before crossing the finish line, according to video of the race.

“Women cannot access that thing that he did at the end … he just blows by everybody. It’s like the girls are standing still. You almost think that, like, ‘wow, is he actually holding back?,'” the mom said. “A male in cross country, he finished 63rd and he is now competing with the top athletes in the nation. It’s a joke.”

Payton McNabb, a spokeswoman for Independent Women’s Forum, told the DCNF that the track meet is “just the latest example of a biological male taking away an opportunity from a female athlete.”

“Again and again, female athletes are being pushed aside to make room for biological males in women’s divisions,” McNabb, a North Carolina high school athlete who was injured when playing volleyball against a biological male, said. “This isn’t right, and it isn’t fair.”

The CIF and the CIF-North Section did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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