Girls & Women in Sports Day: WVU female athletes encourage participation

MORGANTOWN — Good thing those rowing machines were bolted down Sunday afternoon.
If not, Sadie Adams and Gracey Fortney may have ended up halfway to Pittsburgh before they were done.
“That was a good workout,” Sadie said.
“What are we gonna do now?” Gracey asked.
Anything they want — especially where women’s athletics are involved.
Sadie, 11, and Gracey, 10, are best friends (and next-door neighbors) in Shinnston, Harrison County.
They were among the youngsters who poured in to WVU’s Basketball Practice Facility to row, shoot baskets, negotiate a balance beam and more.
The occasion was Girls & Women in Sports Day, which honors the accomplishments of female athletes in the field of play and in life.
WVU hosted the event in advance of Wednesday’s national observance — the 33rd annual — to tie in with the women’s Mountaineer basketball contest with Kansas at the Coliseum.
“Lead Her Forward” is the theme of the 2019 Day, which is sponsored nationally by the Women’s Sports Foundation.
Sarah Wabnitz likes that theme, which she says goes way past Title IX and gender equity in four quarters of play.
Wabnitz, a freshman rowing team member, was helping Sadie and Gracey row through their paces.
She grew up in Martinsburg with three brothers, so she knows what it’s like to be competitive, she said.
What she didn’t know about was rowing.
“No idea,” she said, laughing. “I just know it was on TV every four years with the Olympics.”
So she decided to give the Division I women’s sport a go.
“Rowing, as I found out, is all about the legs,” she said. “Going in, I was thinking arms and shoulders.”
It’s also about being good at something she’d never considered before, she said, which is also the whole of going to college.
As she’s pushing water, the sport is pushing her, she said.
“It was a new environment,” she said of her new sport, “and it started me seeing and thinking about the world differently.”
Now, she’s an international studies major with a German minor.
She sees herself testing the waters in that country after her degree. Or maybe at an embassy in Europe.
Being a student-athlete, she said, helps in the arena of empowerment.
She smiled over at Sadie and Gracey as she was talking.
“That’s what I’m telling these ladies. They can go anywhere they want and accomplish anything they want. They just have to put in the work.”
The rowing wunderkinds from Shinnston already have definite career goals.
Gracey sees herself as a physician.
Sadie wants to be a paralegal.
Wait a second — did she just say, “paralegal?”
Sadie’s mom, Jennifer Adams, approached the bench with a smile.
“She’s fascinated with court rooms and the legal process.”

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