Colgate Women’s Games: running for a cause + education in New York

“Athletics is the great equalizer since anyone with the desire and a pair of sneakers can participate.” Meet Colgate Women’s Games Director Cheryl Toussaint shared this profound quote as she spoke about how the sport of track and field changed her life, which in turn helped positively affect countless girls across the East Coast and especially from the New York metropolitan area who have competed in the Colgate Women’s Games over the decades. Each year, the Colgate Women’s Games are held in New York, bringing together thousands of young women and girls interested in athletics and furthering their education. After a pandemic pause in 2021, games resume in New York City from April 3. We spoke with Cheryl Toussaint about this year’s event.

The story

Decades before the games began, Cheryl was a young girl of humble beginnings from Brooklyn. During her childhood, she raced with friends just for fun around the neighborhood. Like many children in similar economic circumstances, Cheryl was unaware that running was a team sport and the opportunities it could provide.

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Cheryl shared “I didn’t know running was a team sport until I was 13, but one day I heard about a track meet and signed up right away. because I wanted to see what it would be like to compete against real racers. I was absolutely unprepared and not dressed properly, but ended up finishing in fourth place. That moment changed my life forever. All three girls who finished ahead of me in this chance race were from the same race team, which is how I discovered the Atoms Track Club and met my long-time coach, mentor and founder of Colgate Women’s GamesFred Thompson.

In 1974, Colgate Women’s Games was founded with a focus on education and athletic excellence. The games originated just a few years after Cheryl competed in the 1972 Olympics where she won a silver medal. Colgate Women’s Games is a developmental series that provides space for girls and women who would otherwise not have the opportunity to participate in organized sports. It’s a place where Olympians and budding young athletes grow and compete side by side and encourage each other.

Cheryl fondly remembers founder Fred and why he started: “Fred was our mentor and trained girls and young women at a time when there weren’t a lot of sporting opportunities for girls and inner-city youth like me, and that’s where I discovered and developed my athletic talent.For more than four decades, Colgate-Palmolive has been the title sponsor of the games, enabling the success of the event and awarding more than a hundred scholarships each year.

After a life dedicated to helping young women succeed in sport, in the community and in their careers, Fred sadly passed away in 2019 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. His legacy lives on through games.

Games

The opportunity to witness this incredible display of events and sportsmanship is ready to begin. Cheryl shared a preview of what viewers and attendees can expect: “Each year, the New York-based Free Meet attracts thousands of competitors of all ages from across the East Coast. The series offers contestants the chance to win trophies and scholarships from sponsor Colgate-Palmolive and has enabled thousands of girls to enter and pay for college and pursue successful careers. I was able to defray the cost of higher education thanks to the scholarships I won through my participation in the Colgate Women’s Games.

This year’s games will begin with preliminary competitions on April 3 and 10 at St. John’s University, DaSilva Field, Queens, NY. The semi-finals and finals will take place at Icahn Stadium in New York on April 16 and 24. Attendees can expect to see traditional track and field events such as dashes, hurdles and field events of 100m, 200m and 400m.

The event has served as the training ground for 29 Olympians (including two gold medalists from the Tokyo 2020 Games) and trained hundreds of national champions, so a chance to see a future star is possible. Cheryl shared that with the games being so close to New York, Hudson County students often participate and compete against other local athletes.

The future of games

For the past 46 years, Cheryl has competed in the Colgate Women’s Games. In 2014 she took on the role of Competition Director and in 2022 she will oversee all elements of the program. “I am honored to oversee the 47and season of the series and giving women and girls the same opportunity I have been given to realize their potential. As the games continue, the mission to provide great opportunities and open doors for young girls in both athletics and education continues.

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Cheryl shared that many of the women involved in the program have had incredible career paths with the program graduating from future lawyers, doctors, teachers, business owners, and more. Participation and admission to the games are free! Girls and women can register now at www.colgatewomensgames.com to participate in the preliminary competition.

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