Candace Hill, the Youngest American, Man or Woman, to Turn Pro in Track and Field: Thank You Title IX

GATORADE NATIONAL GIRLS TRACK & FIELD 2
Candace Hill, of Rockdale County High School, after being named the Gatorade National Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year, Thursday, June 25, 2015 in Conyers, GA.Photo/Gatorade, Susan Goldman, handout.

Candace Hill is one of the fastest women in the world. And she’s turned pro. At the age of 16.

She’ll be running in Rio, and she’ll be likely making a very, very good living along the way.

“Skipping college is attractive for three reasons: money, fame and momentum,” the sprinter from Georgia was quoted as saying in this New York Times article.

Candace Hill running

Call her arrogant. Call her the embodiment of the American dream. With the third best time ever in the 100 meters for women under 20 years old (10.98 seconds), she is not only the youngest woman to turn pro in track and field in America, she is the youngest person man or woman.

You would never have seen a woman like Hill over 40 years ago, before Title IX.

Title IX (nine) is part of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, a law that states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Barbara Winslow in the Journal of the Gilder Lehrman Institute stated the situation this way:

It’s hard to imagine that just forty years ago, young women were not admitted into many colleges and universities, athletic scholarships were rare, and math and science was a realm reserved for boys. Girls square danced instead of playing sports, studied home economics instead of training for “male-oriented” (read: higher-paying) trades. Girls could become teachers and nurses, but not doctors or principals; women rarely were awarded tenure and even more rarely appointed college presidents. There was no such thing as sexual harassment because “boys will be boys,” after all, and if a student got pregnant, her formal education ended. Graduate professional schools openly discriminated against women.

Today a generation or two of women have grown up in a culture that has encouraged women to all the pursuits that men had previously enjoyed. Thanks to Title IX, educational systems had to begin investing in girls and womens’ teams, which resulted in the popularity for women’s team sports like soccer, basketball, and baseball. Mo’ne Davis, who was the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout in a Little League World Series (which is essentially an all-boys club), is a shining representation of what expectations were embedded in the law when it was passed.

Mone Davis SI Cover

“It’s the era of the girl in general,” said Lauren Fleshman (in this New York Times article), a professional runner and five-time N.C.A.A. champion at Stanford. “Women have never been more marketable in sports than they are now, from U.S. soccer to Serena. Forty-plus years since Title IX means we have our first generation of supportive parents and coaches who grew up with the idea of female athletes not being horrifying. People are training girls harder than ever.”