California Track No-Show Highlights Trans Athlete Controversy

Two biologically male athletes were slated to compete in a girls’ high school track meet but ultimately did not attend. The organization that organized the competition blamed the decision on harassment from critics, further highlighting the debate over born-male athletes joining female sporting events.

Athena Ryan and Lorelei Barrett were scheduled to compete in California State preliminary Track and Field Championship last week. 

The inclusion of the two born-male athletes caused controversy prior to the match. 

However, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) backed the two athletes, framing their critics as having “harassed” them. 

The organization said the two athletes withdrew from the championships due to “the actions of others” and “out of concern for the students’ well being.” 

The organization added that it “strongly denounces discriminatory or harassing behaviors that impact our student-athletes’ opportunities to participate in interscholastic competitions.” 

The organization allows biological males to compete in such athletic events “irrespective of the gender listed on a student’s records.” 

In particular, Athena Ryan beat biologically-female Adeline Johnson at the North Coast Meet of Champions of California finals. Ryan was barred from the finals. 

The California track situation bears similarities to a biological male competing in, and winning, a number of women’s college swim competitions.

Riley Gaines, a female swimmer who lost to biologically-male Lia Thomas, criticized the no-show by the two runners.

Gaines asked if the swimmers decided not to compete because they “clearly possess an unfair advantage.” 

The former NCAA All-American swimmer has testified before Congress and faced significant harassment by a mob of students during an event at San Francisco State University.

A number of parents of swimmers at Penn State signed an anonymous letter regarding Thomas’ competition. One parent told Sports Illustrated that the group could not “stand by while she rewrites records and eliminates biological women from this sport.” 

“If we don’t speak up here, it’s going to happen in college after college,” the parent said. “And then women’s sports, as we know it, will no longer exist in this country.” 

Reporting at the time said that members of the swim team were warned not to speak about Thomas’ inclusion on the team. One told the sports magazine that she was “not about to be labeled as transphobic.”