A Soldotna woman could become the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials if her entry is approved by two of the biggest international governing federations in sports.
Megan Youngren qualified for the women’s marathon trials, scheduled for Feb. 29 in Atlanta, by meeting the qualifying standard at December’s California International Marathon in Sacramento.
She finished the 26.2-mile race in 2 hours, 43 minutes, 52 seconds, to become the fifth Alaskan — three women and two men — to qualify for the 2020 marathon trials. The qualifying standard for women is 2:45:00.
Susan Hazzard, the head of communications for USA Track & Field, told the Daily News on Thursday that Youngren’s entry in the race is still pending until the International Olympic Committee and World Athletics — the international governing body for track and field, formerly known as the IAAF — approves the entry.
“I haven’t heard from anybody in about a week,” Youngren, 28, said in a phone interview Thursday. "Before I did hear from USATF that I should expect to go.
“They told me to plan on it, so I’m planning on it.”
Youngren said she has booked a flight to Atlanta and is training with the idea that she’ll be running a marathon in two weeks.
If she does race, she’ll make U.S. marathon history, Hazzard said.
“We have not had a transgender athlete compete in our Olympic trials or U.S. championships that I’m aware of,” said Hazzard, who has been with USA Track and Field for 20 years.
Youngren said she hopes her participation doesn’t become a big deal, and that she’s not eager to become the face of transgender women in sports.
“But I’m also the person who’s here,” she said. “I’d rather not have the next person who comes along have to deal with this.”
Hazzard said USA Track and Field doesn’t ask athletes if they are transgender, but those who are known to be transgender must meet USATF guidelines, which essentially mimic the IOC policy. According to its website, the USATF’s transgender policy “requires that certain medical benchmarks be achieved before an athlete may compete as the opposite gender for medals, prize money and other benefits.”
For transgender women, the IOC requires testosterone levels below a certain point for at least 12 months but does not require surgery. For transgender men, there are no restrictions. Efforts to create stricter guidelines have stalled, according to the Guardian and several other media sources.
Youngren told Sports Illustrated that she has been working with the same doctor since 2013 and that her testosterone levels meet current and proposed standards.
“I have done everything by the book, and I can show that,” she told the magazine.
In August at the Anchorage RunFest, Youngren finished second among women and third overall in the marathon. She ran 2:52.33, which was her personal best until her 2:43:52 in the California International Marathon.
Other Alaskans to qualify for the marathon trials are Anna Dalton of Anchorage and Keri McEntee of Fairbanks in the women’s race and Aaron Fletcher of Anchorage and Tony Tomsich, formerly of Fairbanks and Anchorage, in the men’s race.
There is no limit on the field of this year’s marathon trials. More than 500 women have qualified for the race, Hazzard said.