Betsy Duren ‘78: Greenhills’ first girls cross country runner
Greenhills’ Girls Cross Country team was founded a few years after the boys team, which meant that for a few years, there was only a boys team. But that didn’t stop Betsy Duren.
Duren wanted to improve her strength and speed, so she decided to start running. There was no girls cross country team. So Duren started running with the boy’s team.
“It felt like a privilege to train with the boys,” Duren said. “I don’t remember specifically wanting to train with girls at that time. Of course, I didn’t know what I was missing! Looking back, I remember the girls’ team being more fun and meaningful.”
Soon, of course, that girls team started running its own practices and races. Duren kept running. In fact, she’s never really stopped.
“These days I still go out and run hills, and I think of Coach Goodridge telling us ‘Attack the hills!’” she said. “Being a hill-runner is still a big part of my self-image.”
Duren has watched the growth of women’s sports for her entire life, and she’s noticed as slowly but surely, things have changed for the better.
“I don’t think the idea of women being entitled to parity in sports with men ever occurred to me back then,” she said. “It just seemed natural that women played field hockey while men played the more glamorous sports like football. My dad never excluded me when he taught my brother sports techniques, but nobody was surprised when my brother was interested in learning to throw a baseball or football and I wasn’t. It’s hard to imagine how different it might have been growing up with WNBA superstars as role models.”
Sure enough, things are different. The NCAA, for instance, recently announced that it would refer to its spring basketball tournaments as Men’s and Women’s March Madness, rather than, as before, giving the “March Madness” label only to the men’s tournament. Things certainly aren’t perfect, but changes are happening.
“I think I was very lucky, thanks to Greenhills, that I got to do the sports I wanted to do,” Duren said. “Back in the 70s this certainly wasn’t my birthright. I’m glad that nowadays girls see these doors wide open.”