“Track and field is the great equalizer since anyone with the desire and a pair of sneakers can participate.” Meet Director of the Colgate Women’s Games Cheryl Toussaint shared this profound quote when speaking about how the sport of track and field changed her life, which in turn helped positively affect countless girls from all over the East Coast and specifically in the New York Metro Area who’ve participated in the Colgate Women’s Games over the decades. Every year the Colgate Women’s Games takes place in New York bringing together thousands of young women and girls interested in track and field and furthering their education. After a pandemic pause in 2021, the games are back on in New York starting April 3rd. We chatted with Cheryl Toussaint about this year’s event.
Decades before the start of the games, Cheryl was a young girl with humble beginnings from Brooklyn. During her childhood, she would race friends just for fun in the neighborhood. Like many children in similar economic circumstances, Cheryl was unaware of running as a team sport and the opportunities it could provide.
Cheryl shared “I didn’t know that running was a team sport until I was 13, but one day I heard about a track meet and entered on the spot because I wanted to see what it would be like to compete against real runners. I was totally unprepared and wasn’t dressed properly, but I ended up finishing in fourth place. That moment changed my life forever. All three girls who finished ahead of me in that fortuitous race belonged to the same running team, which is how I first learned about the Atoms Track Club and met my longtime coach, mentor, and founder of Colgate Women’s Games, Fred Thompson.”
In 1974 Colgate Women’s Games was founded with an emphasis on education and athletic excellence. The games were birthed just a few years after Cheryl competed in the 1972 Olympics where she took home a silver medal. Colgate Women’s Games is a developmental series, which provides a space for girls and women who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in organized sports. It is a place where Olympians and aspiring young athletes develop and compete side-by-side and encourage one another.
Cheryl remembers founder Fred fondly and his reason for starting, “Fred served as our mentor and trained girls and young women at a time when there weren’t many athletic opportunities for girls and inner-city youth like me, and it was where I discovered and grew my athletic talent.” For over four decades, Colgate-Palmolive has served as the title sponsor of the games allowing for the success of the event and awarding more than one hundred educational scholarships each year.
After a life dedicated to helping young women succeed in the sport, in the community, and in their careers, Fred, unfortunately, passed away in 2019 from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. His legacy lives on through the games.
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The opportunity to witness this incredible display of events and sportsmanship is ready to kick off. Cheryl shared some insight on what spectators and participants can expect, “Each year, the free, New York City-based meets attract thousands of competitors of all ages from up and down the East Coast. The series offers competitors the chance to win trophies and educational scholarships from sponsor Colgate-Palmolive and has empowered thousands of girls to get into and pay for college and go on to have successful careers. I was able to defray the cost of graduate studies with scholarships I earned from participation in Colgate Women’s Games.”
This year’s games open with the preliminary competitions on April 3 and April 10 at St. John’s University, DaSilva Field, Queens, NY. The semi-finals and finals will be held at Icahn Stadium in New York City on April 16th and 24th. Attendees can expect to see traditional track and field events such as the 100m, 200m, and 400m dashes, hurdles, and field events.
The event has served as a training ground for an astounding 29 Olympians (including two Gold medalists at the Tokyo 2020 Games) and has trained hundreds of National Champions so a chance to see a future star is possible. Cheryl shared that with the close proximity of the games in NYC, Hudson County students often participate and compete against other local athletes.
The Future of The Games
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For the last 46 years, Cheryl has been part of the Colgate Women’s Games. In 2014 she stepped into the position of Meet Director and in 2022 will be overseeing all elements of the program, “I am honored to be overseeing the 47th season of the series and providing women and young girls with the same opportunity I was given to realize their potential.” As the games continue, the mission of providing great opportunities and opening doors for young girls both in athletics and in education continues.
Cheryl shared that many of the ladies involved with the program have gone on to have incredible career paths with the program graduating future lawyers, doctors, teachers, business owners, and more. Participation and admission to the games are free! Girls and women can sign up now at www.colgatewomensgames.com to participate in the preliminary competition.