Transgender athlete takes spotlight in girls' meet

New Britain — Last year, Kate Hall wasn't positive she fully appreciated winning a Class M state championship as a sophomore.

That gave Hall, a Stonington High School junior, even higher expectations for Tuesday's Class M state track and field championship at Willow Brook Park, where she was focused on a repeat in the 100 meters and was also one of the top seeds in the 200, in which she finished in the top 10 in New England last year.

Instead, the day belonged to Cromwell's Andraya Yearwood, a freshman who won both the 100 and the 200.

Yearwood is a transgender athlete who competed for Cromwell as a girl for the first time on April 5, winning both sprints in a tri-meet against Portland and Old Saybrook. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference “defers to the determination of the student and his or her local school regarding gender identification,” according to a Hartford Courant story about Yearwood earlier in the year.

“It feels really good. I'm really happy to win both titles,” Yearwood said after her performance in the Class M meet. “I kind of expected it. I've always gotten first, so I expected it to some extent. … I'm really proud of it.”

Yearwood won the 100 in 12.66 seconds, edging Hall, who was second in 12.83. Yearwood was then first in the 200 in 26.08. Woodland's Erika Michie was second in 26.38 and Hall, the Eastern Connecticut Conference champion in the event, third in 26.65.

Hall had the top preliminary time in the 100 in 12.85 to Yearwood's 12.89.

Hall admits to being competitive. That was the primary reason for the tears she wiped away Tuesday. Losing to anyone isn't her favorite thing. She called the situation “frustrating.”

“There's not much I can do,” Hall said. “Second doesn't work for me. Yeah, it does, in a way, for the team. But you come into a state championship meet looking to win a state title. I had an awesome chance. I could have done a lot of things (differently). If I'd run my best, I could have won it.”

“Kate's emotional,” said Stonington coach Ben Bowne, the head boys' coach and the overall sprints coach for the Bears' boys' and girls' programs. “She works really hard. I've just been telling Kate all year, 'Just run your best. She's going to help you run better. … (Kate) is a really competitive athlete. She doesn't like to lose to anybody. She's a competitor. To run the best, you've got to go against good competition.”

Hall said she believes Yearwood to be “100 percent an awesome person.”

“I just need to take it as a positive thing. Get through it. Perform the best you can,” Hall said.

Yearwood, meanwhile, said she's used to the attention she's drawing at this point.

“I'm getting attention from places I don't even know about,” she said with a smile.

She was pleased, however, with the way she was treated by her competitors. No “rude comments,” she reports. Yearwood ran for the boys' track team in middle school before transitioning to female.

Said Yearwood in the Hartford Courant story of being transgender: “I do hope I inspire people, but not only with track. I hope it inspires people to not hold yourself back just because you're scared of it or it is your first time doing it, or because of other people's negativity.”

“I know they'll say it is unfair and not right,” Yearwood's mother, Ngozi Nnaji, told the Courant. “But my counter to that is: 'Why not?' She is competing and practicing and giving her all and performing and excelling based on her skills. Let that be enough. Let her do that and be proud of that.”

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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