Citadel gives out first athletic scholarship to a woman
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ For the past two years, Mandy Garcia watched as women made history at The Citadel. Next week, she’ll make some of her own as the military college’s first female scholarship athlete.
Garcia, an 18-year-old runner from Fayetteville, N.C., will join the cross-country team and train alongside about 15 men, track and cross-country coach Jody Huddleston said Thursday.
``I think this is going to be just great,″ Huddleston said. ``We’re out to recruit women. Now we’re just like everybody else.″
Garcia will be the first woman to wear the snarling Bulldogs logo into competition _ a one-woman team in meets and for the Southern Conference championships.
She signed her scholarship papers Thursday, moving the school further down the road to total acceptance of women.
Women joined the corps of cadets only after a protracted court fight. Shannon Faulkner sued and, under federal court order, became the first female cadet in 1995. However, she dropped out after less than a week, citing stress and isolation.
The Citadel abandoned its all-male admissions policy last summer after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a similar policy at Virginia Military Institute was unconstitutional.
Four women enrolled in August 1996, though two left after a semester, alleging they were hazed and harassed. Authorities are still investigating.
Garcia is one of about 30 women among the freshmen class coming to the state military school next week.
Athletic director Walt Nadzak said Garcia represents the start of another full-fledged sports program. ``Miss Garcia is the first step in that direction,″ he said.
For most of the school’s 154-year history, the only women seen at athletic events were borrowed cheerleaders and the wives, mothers and girlfriends of students and alumni.
``I love the challenge,″ Garcia said in April after her application was accepted. ``I love people to tell me, `No, you can’t do it.′ I love people to doubt me. I prove them wrong.″
However, it was more than that fire that led her high school coach, Citadel graduate John Finlaw, to recommend Garcia. They spoke often about potential problems she would face at the disciplined college. But throughout, Garcia burned for a Citadel education.
``If she had said anything else, I never would have recommended her,″ Finlaw said.
Garcia twice competed in the North Carolina high school cross country championship meet. She had a career-best time of 20:28 in the 5,000-meter (3.1 miles) race last year.
Huddleston said Garcia also will run one- and two-mile races during track season.
For now, Garcia will have a locker room to herself in Vandiver Hall, in the former visitors’ locker room.
The Citadel isn’t the only Southern Conference school trying to bring women into its athletic program. VMI, which admits its first women this fall, awarded track scholarships to distance runner Rachel Love of Emmaus, Pa., and discus thrower Kelly Sullivan of Jackson, Ga.
The conference made allowances for both schools to compete with individual athletes instead of a team of five, league commissioner Wright Waters said.
``When they came and asked for our help, we backed out of the way and asked what we could do for them,″ Waters said.
``We’ve waited 77 years. Whenever we talked women’s sports, we were always two teams short,″ he said.