Fueled by Gender Equity, HB woodlawn wins virginia state championships

HB Woodlawn Pandamonium celebrate winning Virginia High School State Championships. (Leslie Keller)

HB Woodlawn Pandamonium celebrate winning Virginia High School State Championships. (Leslie Keller)

Fueled by Gender Equity, HB woodlawn wins virginia state championships

By Laurel Oldershaw, June 2, 2017

H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in Arlington, VA offers only one sport for students to play: ultimate. A couple of weeks ago, that investment paid off and HB Woodlawn Pandamonium took home their first ever Virginia High School State Championship, beating Washington-Lee High School in the finals, 15-10. Last year, HB Woodlawn lost a nail-biter to a joint Yorktown/Washington-Lee High School team.

HB Woodlawn is talented in both their roster and coaching staff. Starring for the Pandamonium is 2016 World Juniors Ultimate Championships alternate, junior Caroline Tornquist, and newly rostered Washngton DC Scandal player, junior Ella Juengst. Coach Leslie Keller has also done a great job focusing her practices on a combination of hard work and empowerment. “I would try and relate a strong woman to what we were doing at practice. Like when we were working on slightly changing up our defenses to throw off the offense without it being super obvious what we were doing, the woman was [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel because she quietly dictates outcomes, is very sneaky, and she cannot be intimidated,” Keller explains. “We’ve also talked about [California Senator] Kamala Harris, [US Supreme Court Justice] Ruth Bader Ginsburg, [US Supreme Court Justice] Sonia Sotomayor, [Former First Lady] Michelle Obama, and [Women’s National Basketball Association team] the Washington Mystics.”  

Keller also mentored Pandamonium through the production of a video challenging Ultiworld’s uneven coverage of the YULA Invite tournament this past April. Many teams try to distance themselves from gender equity conversations, claiming there’s not enough time to both be a competitive program and discuss gender equity. However, HB Woodlawn shows that in many ways, talking about gender equity as a team has improved their confidence and brought them together as a team. “The video gave us a better understanding of our teammates’ perspectives on and off the field,” explains junior Ellie Heil. Sophomore Miranda Baltaxe continued, “Producing the video helped build us up and gave us more connections between one another.”

The video responds to a decision from Ultiworld to have a reporter at the YULA Invite only cover the boy’s division. The video goes in depth debunking different excuses made against gender equity and ends with a direct ask to Ultiworld, “We would like a formal apology from Ultiworld and an action plan to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.” Ultiworld has responded by discussing the issue on their Deep Look podcast, focusing more, however, to the leak of a Slack chat conversation featuring Charlie Eisenhood, Ultiworld Editor in Chief. Eisenhood rationalizes the decision on both the chat and the podcast claiming, “The boys was a clear step above the girls in quality. Also, boys’ high school ultimate coverage gets about five times the views as girls and so as always, we made a call based on limited resources.”  

The video then got huge. Big names in ultimate retweeted the video, the phrase “#equitymatters” began to trend, and HB Woodlawn channeled that fire to dig deep in their late season practices preparing for state championships. “[Talking about gender equity] fires me up and makes me mad and that fires me up to work harder,” explains Juengst. “We are not going to lose that fire,” jumps in junior Maya Nir. “It makes us respect our competitors even more.”

HB Woodlawn will need all that fire and more going into this weekend’s inaugural Ultiworld High School National Invite in Chicago, IL. There they will face off against other top high school programs including California Roll out of Berkeley, CA, the Northwest School from Seattle, WA, and Neuqua Valley from Naperville, IL. #equitymatters

Laurel Oldershaw is an MBA student at the University of British Columbia, where she plays for the UBC Thunderbirds. She loves home-cooked meals, good albums, and the thrill of playing ultimate on a perfect sunny day.