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Transgender California high school runner's 2nd-place finish in girls race draws backlash

Athena Ryan's second-place finish at the Meet of Champions in the girls race in California on Saturday drew ire on social media. Ryan is a trans girl.

The California high school sports governing body came under fire Sunday after a transgender athlete finished in second place in the CIF-North Coast Section Meet of Champions.

Athena Ryan finished in second place in the varsity girls 1,600-meter run finals on Saturday. Ryan of Sonoma Academy finished behind Hanne Thomsen of Montgomery and ahead of Ellie Buckley of Campolindo. Ryan will advance to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) State Track & Field Championships next week.


The Independent Council on Women’s Sports noted Ryan’s finish on social media.

According to the social media account WomenAreReal, some women held up a banner at the meet that read, "Protect Female Sports."

One woman told another woman who was holding the banner, "I find that f---ing offensive." Another video showed security chasing down the women who were holding the banner.


Ryan, a junior, appeared to undeterred by the protests and controversy. Ryan finished with a 4:55.91 time result.


"I wasn’t expecting that. I dropped like 17 seconds on my season’s best in the past two weeks," Ryan told MileSplit after the race. "After last weekend, I didn’t think I could run low 5s again. I was just coming here trying to break 5 – just glad I finished it out."

Ryan told the outlet she hoped to "have fun" at the event next week.

Ryan finished sixth in the 1,600-meter preliminary race and 21st in the girls 800-meter preliminaries.

The CIF has a "Gender Diverse Youth Sports Inclusivity Toolkit." One section outlines "Gender Identity Participation." The CIF has had "Gender Identity Participation" rules since 2013.

"All students should have the opportunity to participate in CIF athletics and/or activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity. Currently, most athletic programs are offered separately for boys and girls as outlined in CIF Bylaws 300.B. and C," the section reads.

"Athletes will participate in programs consistent with their gender identity or the gender most consistently expressed. School personnel responsible for student eligibility will work collaboratively with the student-athlete to determine eligibility. Once the student has been granted eligibility to participate in the sport consistent with their gender identity, the eligibility is granted for the duration of the student’s participation and does not need to be renewed every sports season or school year."

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