Mother of Junior Olympian Speaks Out After Her Daughter Loses to a Male

By Whitney Munro

When Elizabeth Wilson’s daughter, Ahnaleigh, stepped up to the starting line of the 1600-meter race at the Junior Olympics in Cashmere, Washington, it had already been quite a journey. The eighth grader had dislocated her knee playing basketball the year before, which required her to undergo months of physical therapy, strength, and cardio training, and even working with a specialist to recuperate.

All that hard work paid off—she became one of the season’s top performers, winning the 1600-meter race at every one of her meets.

But when she lined up to run it one more time in the 2024 Junior Olympics, she lost by about seven seconds. 

When Ahnaleigh took the second-place podium spot, people were visibly upset. Wilson said that her daughter began to worry she had done something wrong. 

“We got to the podium, and she started hearing the chatter,” Wilson said. “That’s when we first learned the winner used to compete as a boy.”

Immediately, Wilson said her daughter questioned if there was something she could have done differently, as a young athlete with a predisposition for perfectionism and internalization. 

“I had to explain that she really had no chance,” said Wilson. “Biologically, the other runner was stronger and faster.”

When a group of female runners gathered under a tent to privately express their frustration, Wilson said, a coach on the young transgender athlete’s team intimidated them into silence. 

“A coach pretty much told them if you’re gonna complain, go somewhere else,” Wilson said. “So, essentially what you’re telling girls is to shut up and stop complaining. If you feel upset in your life, just keep your mouth closed and deal with it.”

Meanwhile, a picture of the podium that another concerned parent posted went viral, and the Cashmere community ignited.

The story was picked up by Fox News, with IW Ambassador Riley Gaines commending Ahnaleigh for having the courage to share her name and show her face in the news coverage. The Wilsons said they were grateful for the support online, but speaking out still felt lonely at home.

Wilson then began receiving harsh criticism from both sides and took to social media to defend her family from all the hate they received.

“We were called transphobic. I was told my daughter is a sore loser and should have trained harder. I was told, ‘How dare you teach your daughter that winning is the only thing that matters,’” she told IWF. “On the other side, people asked why I let my daughter race, accused me of aiding and abetting, told me I shouldn’t let her run, which is basically telling me I should stop her from doing what she loves. It’s all been very eye-opening to see how much hate we’ve gotten from people in every direction.”

The Wilsons wrestled with what to do next. If Ahnaleigh stopped running in protest, she would lose her outlet for managing anxiety, along with any chance of competing in college. “We know that right now, our daughter represents every single girl that gets pushed down the podium, but she’s in eighth grade and she didn’t ask for this.”

Wilson said that she also feels bad for the young male athlete identifying as transgender. 

“This is somebody’s child. As a parent, I would be devastated to read the awful comments that have been posted online. This child was doing what a small group of adults told them was allowed,” she said, adding:

“This is an adult issue that needs to be fixed by adults. We need to figure out what needs to happen next. What can we do to protect our girls?”

From Wilson’s perspective, change begins with having the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) consider an amendment honoring the intent of Title IX. If she can secure a school to sponsor the amendment and other schools to support it, the WIAA will consider it. 

Even with the pain it’s brought to the family, Wilson said that she has no regrets. 

“Somebody has to say something,” Wilson said. “Somebody has to try.”

Return to Homepage

Sign Up For Updates

  • Become a Mobile Insider. Text WOMAN to 40442 to opt in. Sign up for recurring informational messages from IWF. Msg&data rates may apply. Terms & Privacy Policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.