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Danny Stock

GDS Women’s Sports Win Big on the 50th Anniversary of Title IX

GDS ATHLETICS set participation records in women’s sports with more than half of all female-identifying students playing on a team this fall, a testament to the School’s mission and to the decades of determined efforts by school leaders, coaches, and student athletes to fight for gender equity.

The impressive turnout by GDS athletes coincided with the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a landmark law that bars discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions that receive federal funds. GDS does not receive federal dollars, but to Karen Epstein’s delight, the School was in full compliance with the law when she joined as a physical education teacher in 1983.

“There is still a lot to be done in gender equity, but GDS has always left the door open for that,” Karen said. “That’s why GDS sports are so successful now. People want to come to a place where they are supported.”

In commemoration of Title IX’s milestone anniversary, we offer the story of how that law affected women’s sports advocates within GDS and how their hard work through the decades impacted student athletes.

In 1973, New Jersey 10th grader Karen Epstein was itching to play softball at school, but there was no women’s team for her to join. When she read about the recently enacted Title IX law in Women’s Sports magazine, she “went to bat.” The threat of a lawsuit won her a softball team at school. The sport—and the fight for gender equity—would become lifelong passions.

Ten years later, Head of School Gladys Stern hired Karen as a Middle School physical education teacher at GDS. Outside of school, Karen led lobbying efforts as a founding task force coordinator with the DC Chapter of the National Organization for Women for what eventually became the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987. At school, she was starting a GDS Middle School softball team. She led that team to four championships in a row, and later, worked with dozens of dedicated GDS coaches to lead generations of High School multisport female players to athletic and academic success before her retirement as assistant High School principal in 2014.

“I wasn’t trying to be an activist at GDS,” said Karen. “I just made sure that I put everything I had into any sport I coached, boys or girls.”

By the fall of 1998, the GDS Women’s Soccer Team won the just-formed Independent School League (ISL) Championships with an overtime goal. High School athletic director Kathy Hudson continued stewarding GDS women’s teams into the female-led ISL, a two-tiered, competitive league that would improve levels of participation for beginning teams while pushing the limits of athletic excellence even for future Division I players. 

“For me, [the work at GDS] was all about being sure student athletes had what they needed: strong schedules and great coaches,” said Kathy, who retired in 2019. “It was about making sure that there was equity in everything about men’s and women’s sports, from leagues to uniforms. And whenever I could hire great female coaches, I would.”

In the fall of 2015, the Women’s Varsity Cross Country Team won the ISL Championships for the first time and in fall 2019, the GDS Women’s Varsity Soccer won the ISL Upper Division title for the first time with a dominant 2-0 win over National Cathedral School.

Which brings us to this school year, fall 2022, when three GDS women’s varsity teams captured championship banners after the 50th anniversary of Title IX: 


2022 DC State Champions Varsity Women's Volleyball Team (Cory Royster)

The volleyball team’s first-ever DC State Championship victory, just one year after falling to Wilson High School (now Jackson-Reed) in the 2021 nail-biter, five-set finals, came with nearly a dozen additional accolades. In his sixth year coaching, head coach Brandon Wiest was named All-Met Coach of the Year—“putting GDS on the map as a volleyball powerhouse,” according to The Washington Post. He and Clara Yu ’24 were named District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) Coach and Player of the Year, respectively, with teammates Izzy Evers ’23, Jada Aksu ’25, Aaliyah Howell ’24, and Zoe Ryu ’25 named to DCSAA’s all-state first team. All-Met distinctions went to Jada (second team) as well as Clara and Aaliyah (honorable mention).



GDS Women's Varsity Soccer Team is 2022 ISL Division A Champions

2022 Independent School League Division A Champions Women's Varsity Soccer Team (Cory Royster)

The Soccer team took the lead for the first time in the final two minutes of the ISL championship match, holding off Episcopal High School for a 5-4 victory. Following their disheartening demotion to the lower division in 2021 and a year of post-pandemic rebuilding, the team stormed back, recovering confidence after beating several upper division teams en route to winning both the regular season banner—with an undefeated season—and the tournament championship.

“Multiple players played amazingly—not a single star, and I couldn’t have asked for a better team effort,” said head coach Katie Redmond in her 18th year with GDS women’s soccer. (Katie’s own collegiate career on the inaugural Purdue University team 24 years prior was made possible by the university’s efforts to comply with Title IX.) 


2022 Independent School League Cross Country Champions (Kaiden Yu '23)

2022 Independent School League Cross Country Champions (Kaiden Yu '23)

The Cross Country team ran a perfectly executed race—all with personal records—to win the IndependentSchool League (ISL) Championships for the second time in school history. In cross country, where the lowest score wins, a team’s score is the sum of the rankings of the top five finishers on a seven-person team. GDS’s top three finishers—Ellie Kessler ’24, Audrey Leff ’25, and Sadie Boyle ’25—had excellent results; and yet, the team appeared on track for a second-place result. Sophomores Julia Young and Naomi Borek were able to reduce the deficit, but ultimately it came down to GDS’s final two finishers— Sadie Foer ’23 and Nora Sachse ’25—to dip the team’s score just a fraction more. With a pair of late-race passes, they both finished ahead of rival Visitation’s final scoring runner, forcing two additional points onto Visi’s score. GDS won 82-84.

LS P.E. teacher Peg Schultz, who has played and coached at both the high school and collegiate levels, has watched and helped nurture a meaningful culture shift in women’s athletics at GDS. “Women and girls in the past two generations have grown up with the expectation that they will be able to compete,” she said. “That level of confidence along with hard work, great coaching, and schools—like GDS—that honor equity is making a huge difference in the success women can have in sports. Even in a recess game at GDS, you can’t say you can’t play. Anyone can play.”


GDS Women's Cross Country  is 2022 Independent School League Champions (Kaiden Yu '23)
2022 Independent School League Cross Country Champions (Kaiden Yu '23)
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