The NCAA recently celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day (Feb. 3rd). This special day, recognized by the White House, is the opportunity to honor female athletes and acknowledge the importance of providing equal opportunities for women to participate in sports, ranging from youth events to the professional level.
While events mark the occasion all around the country, there are many local and regional reasons to celebrate.
The Penn State women's gymnastics team is celebrating a team sweep of this week's conference honors, with Senior Brandi Personett being named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week for the fourth time this season. Freshman Sharaya Musser has been tabbed the Freshman of the Week. You can check out the women's team this Saturday as they take on West Virginia.
The best women's track and field stars of the Big Ten will converge on Happy Valley February 27-28 for the Conference Indoor Championships at the Ashenfelter Multi-Sports Facility next to the Bryce Jordan Center. This is a wonderful opportunity for high school athletes to get an affordable up-close-and-personal look at college track and field. Group single-session tickets are just $4 each, but seating is limited, so it would be a good idea to order tickets in advance.
Former Penn State basketball star and Olympic gold medalist, Suzie McConnell Serio is making great strides at Duquesne. Her Dukes are 18-7 on the season, including a December win over nationally-ranked Pittsburgh.
The St. Francis women's basketball team will play host to the quarter-and semi-final rounds of the Northeast Conference tournament, March 6 & 7 in Loretto.
That's after advancing to the NEC Championship game last year under former Wade Trophy winner, Susan Robinson-Fruchtl, another Penn State alumna. This will be an opportunity for local teams to see D-1 women's tournament basketball right here in our own backyard, with teams battling for a berth to the NCAA's big dance.
That is not the only women's sport that St. Francis has to celebrate this winter. The Lady Flash swimming and diving team brought home the program's first-ever Northeast Conference Championship over the weekend. Coach Pat Gallagher was named coach of the year, with the team taking seven gold medals, including four of their five relays. Coach Gallagher gives a great deal of credit to his assistant coach, Lori Leitzinger, who spent part of last summer on the staff of the University of Texas camp, with legendary coach Eddie Reese.
Here in central Pennsylvania, we are fortunate to live near these Division I universities, whose athletes, coaches and administrators serve as wonderful role models and valuable ambassadors for girls' and women's athletics. All we have to do is take advantage of the opportunities to see them in action.
Kellie Goodman can be reached at KellieGatBedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.