Sports Zone, Springfield

Fast Girls Live: A high-speed approach to empowerment

SPRINGFIELD – As the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials made its eighth return to Hayward in Eugene, Oiselle, a women-centered running company focused on elevating the liberation and confidence of women within the running community, presented a “Fast Girls Live” panel discussion at the Richard E. Wildish Community Theater last Tuesday night. 

The panel was moderated by Kara Goucher and Kendra Coleman, two women who have competed at Hayward Field and spoke with local Lane County high school girl athletes.

“Everything we do is rooted in our belief that sport is transformative, especially for women,” Justine Fédronic, Oiselle’s community and athlete partnerships manager said. “We love having this event – it really helps to bridge the different levels of the athletic experience and Kara has been a wonderful ambassador for us to invite these girls to share and celebrate their experiences.”

The ticket proceeds went directly to Girls on The Run Greater Oregon. This local branch of the national nonprofit designs evidence-based programs to guide girls on social and emotional development.

“Girls on the Run is a social-emotional learning program that combines running for girls,” said Emilee Anderson, the regional manager for Girls on The Run in Willamette Valley. “So we have a 3rd-5th grade program and a middle-school program. So by the time these girls enter high school, they’re a little bit more prepared to kind of work with things like how to be on a team,  how to have more confidence, and how to work through some emotions that they haven’t ever dealt with before.”

From 6:30-7 p.m., guests enjoyed refreshments, activities and the warm welcome of the other supporting nonprofits. Most notably, Bras for Girls donated free, fitted Oiselle sports bras and breast development education booklets for girls 8-18.

After 7 p.m., guests settled down in their seats to hear Goucher, Coleman and the six Lane County high school girl athletes.

In the panel introduction, guests learned about Goucher’s passion for the recognition and awareness of high-school girls in running and the origin of the traveling panel “Fast Girl Lives.” 

Goucher’s passion derives from her experiences in hockey-loving Minnesota and her background in her Instagram platform series titled “Fast Girl Fridays.” In “Fast Girl Fridays,” Goucher would go on Instagram live and interact with other high school girls in running. In this informal setting, they would discuss and “talk about what they love about the sport of running, what it’s brought to their lives, and the friendships they made.” “Fast Girl Fridays” eventually manifested into the more formal environment of the in-person “Fast Girl Live” discussion panels and forum. The last panel took place during the Boston Marathon week in April.

“I think it’s really important to highlight high school girl athletes,” said Goucher, a two-time Olympian, NBC Analyst, and award-winning author. “I don’t care how far you throw or how fast you are. You’re important in what you’re doing.”

Second moderator Kendra Coleman, a Pro USA Track and Field athlete, had finished the women’s 800 meters a couple of days before the panel. The Oiselle-sponsored athlete encouraged the girls to never give up and never let their confidence fade.

“You have to keep putting yourself out there, do your best and keep showing up. Like, they will cover you – they have to! They will not refuse you when you win and you’re up there,” Coleman said.

Goucher, Coleman and the athletes discussed the challenges and opportunities in women’s sports, but also highlighted the importance of teamwork and personal growth. They shared their experiences of feeling undervalued or overlooked. However, all the panelists agreed that despite these challenges, the advantages of joining their team were rewarding and their participation had a transformative impact on their mental well-being. In addition, they emphasized the need for support and investment in each other’s success. 

There were also moments of light-heartedness and warmth. Coleman asked the athletes a couple of “Hot Takes” questions regarding wearing socks and pre-race food. There were also notable tips and advice from Goucher and Coleman on pre-competition anxiety. 

Among the six high school athletes was Springfield High’s upcoming senior Audrey Sommerville. Somerville has been active in track and field for the last three years and cross country for the past two years. She’s a featured sprinter in the 100, 200, and 400 meters and also competes in long jump. She’s also raced in the 4×100 relay and 4×400 relay. Her most noteworthy personal records are 14.04 in the 100 meters, 29.58 in the 200 meters and 1:04.32 in the 400 meters. 

Somerville asked insightful questions at the panel, including asking Goucher about how she guides her son on gender equity and teamwork. In addition, she said she resonated with many of the key points on anxiety, confidence and the mental obstacles of the sport during the forum.

Although Somerville’s father did track and field, Sommerville’s journey with running has always been uniquely tied to gender equity.

“In the third grade, I had this kind of PE introduction to track and field,” she said. “Some of the baseball boys did shot put, some of the gymnastic girls did high jump, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And then we did this race and I was put up against this boy actually and he looked at me and he was like, ‘Oh easy’ you know? But then I actually beat him and as I crossed the finish line, my coach or my PE teacher – who never really acknowledged me by my name until that moment – was like, ‘Good job Audrey.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, I see what this is all about.’

Sommerville’s goals for her last cross-country and track and field seasons are to “go out with a bang” and improve her mental strength.

“I would say track is definitely my main sport and cross country is kind of new to me,” she said. “But I’d really just like to see what I can do this season because it’s my last season. And for track, I really, really, really want to see what I can do and just really get over some mental barriers as well. I think it’ll be super great to see what myself, my body and my mind are capable of this season.”

Somerville hopes she can run in college, but is unsure if that is 100% her path. Either way, she desires to remain in the Eugene area because it “fits her hobby of TrackTown USA.”

Somerville’s feature in this event was significant for her in both honoring her past journey and her future as a senior.

“It means a lot to me because I’ve definitely felt smaller in a lot of spaces. Due to people not really caring about women’s sports or because our times are less than men’s, or our marks are less than theirs and ours get swept under the rug a lot,” she said. “But a movement like this and Oiselle and Bras for Girls … that all just really reminds me that there are people that care and it’s a good way to show it.”

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