A transgender female NCAA cross country runner has been named the Female Athlete of the Week.
June Eastwood, a University of Montana senior, has been named Female Athlete of the Week by the Big Sky Conference on Tuesday after excelling in a race held on October 19.
At the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational in Sunnyvale, California, Eastwood finished second in a group of 204 female runners.
The Big Sky Conference named transgender female June Eastwood as the Athlete of the Week after placing second in the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational
The Big Sky Conference said she clocked a time of 20:86 in the 6K race and was instrumental in helping the team place seventh in the overall event.
Previously, Eastwood competed on the University of Montana’s men’s team before identifying as a transgender female and being allowed a spot on the women’s team.
As a man, she was a standout athlete throughout her younger years and won state titles in multiple men’s races.
She competed in her first female division run on August 31 of this year.
Eastwood (pictured) competed in her first female division competition earlier this year
‘(I’m) nervous and excited. Nervous for what that means and how people will react, but excited because I haven’t competed in 15 months, and excited to get this started,’ Eastwood told Bozeman Daily Chronicles.
The debate surrounding transgender athletes in sports, which are generally based on gender, has become a hot button issue in daily discourse.
Those who oppose transgender females competing in sports usually cite hormonal factors like higher testosterone levels in trans women and physiological features like height and weight.
Supporters point out that sports of all levels have been categorized by gender and transgender females should compete in the gender division they identify as.
Before identifying as June, Eastwood (pictured) was a standout athlete in high school and competed on the University of Montana’s men’s team
In June’s case, and other collegiate transgender athletes, the NCAA’s policy allows male athletes to compete in women’s athletics under certain guidelines.
The policy dictates that male runners who identify as transgender women must suppress testosterone levels for a full calendar year before competing in women’s sports.
In a 2011 handbook, the NCAA sought advice from medical professionals familiar with the ‘complexities of the transitioning student-athlete.’
It subsequently determined that it’s not warranted to assume: ‘that being born with a male body automatically gives a transgender woman an unfair advantage when competing against non-transgender women.’
Pictured: Eastwood running during warm-up with her teammates after identifying as a transgender female
However, other medical professionals have said that transgender woman have an advantage over cis-gendered women.
In a study in the Journal of Medical Ethics, they said there is little evidence to show testosterone mitigates past muscle mass.
‘In addition, the phenomenon of muscle memory means muscle mass and strength can be rebuilt with previous strength exercise making it easier to regain muscle mass later in life even after long intervening periods of inactivity and mass loss,’ the authors said according to the Daily Caller.
As it stands now, more research will need to conducted in the upcoming years to fully understand the several factors surrounding the topic.
The announcement of Eastwood’s entry into the women’s division has sparked both support and criticism
After word of Eastwood’s accolade spread, people across social media had varying reactions.
Some people supported Eastwood and congratulated her on the accomplishment.
One person wrote: ‘Honestly never thought I’d say this but “Go lady Griz!!” Congrats June!’
‘Looking forward to watching her run- she is an amazing athlete,’ another wrote.
A Twitter user said: ‘Super excited and proud that June gets to experience this journey at the U of M. Best of luck!’
Others said the recognition was uncalled for.
‘This is hurting female competitors, and is completely unfair,’ one person said.
In May, the House of Representatives voted to approve the Equality Act, a policy that would requite all schools to allow male athletes who identify as transgender women to compete in women’s sports.
Regardless, Eastwood and the University of Montana team will be competing in the Big Sky Conference Championship.