National Girls and Women in Sports Day means a little more at Mason

FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA/USA - Feb. 05, 2020: Former George Mason guard Keri Chaconas poses with the 2019-2020 George Mason Women’s Basketball team after their win against UMass at EagleBank Arena. Photo Credit: Domenic Allegra
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA/USA - Feb. 05, 2020: Former George Mason guard Keri Chaconas poses with the 2019-2020 George Mason Women’s Basketball team after their win against UMass at EagleBank Arena. Photo Credit: Domenic Allegra /

Mason honors former player on Sue Collins National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Wednesday night was an important night for both the Mason women’s basketball program, but also for girls and women across the country.

On Feb. 5, Mason hosted their Sue Collins National Girls and Women in Sports Day, honoring not only Sue Collins, but all the girls and women in sport across the country.

Collins spent 34 years at Mason, working her way up from assistant athletic director to senior associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator. Under her tenure, Mason added six sports programs, five women’s and one men’s.

During her time at Mason, she served on several NCAA committees and helped to develop the Gender Equity Survey and the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act Survey.

The program celebrated this important day by honoring alum Keri (Chaconas) Holm (’96) and celebrating the 25th anniversary of her 51 point game against East Carolina. Holm is the all-time leading scorer (1,747 points) in program history and she played 11 seasons in Sweden after graduating. She was the first Mason athlete to play in the WNBA after she competed for the Washington Mystics in 1998.

When Holm spoke about her time as an athlete, she said she learned about the power of breakthrough and how it comes soon after a “sucky” moment.

“And you know, there’s a reward right on the other side of that sucky moment,” she said. “So for me, that’s what sports has given me. I really hope that one day when I’m literally standing in the valley of death, I hope that I remember that I worked hard, and I prepared and I’m ready for that moment. I hope that I know that I’m not walking in alone. And I hope that I remember that my reward is just on the other side.”

She finished her speech by saying, “So thank you very much for this day. I’m so honored to be here. It’s such a privilege for me to be here. The fact that it’s honoring Sue is just another privilege for me. She was a really inspirational person here at Mason and she did a lot for me personally.”

After the game, Mason head coach Nyla Milleson acknowledged what it meant to her players to have Holm there Wednesday night. Nicole Cardaño-Hillary is just 126 points away from breaking Holm’s record, a feat she may even accomplish by the end of this season.

But before she breaks that record she got a chance to meet the woman who has held it for 24 years, something that proves it is not always about what happens on the court.

“Having Keri here I think today is very, very special. I mean she’s a legend at Mason,” she said. “To have somebody like that in our presence is very, very important. I’m not going to jinx anything [knocks on wood] but you know Nikki’s probably going to break her all-time scoring record, and for her to have an opportunity to spend time with her and see her, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

Prior to the game, the athletic department hosted a reception inviting fans, Mason’s other women’s sports teams, and faculty to honor female athletes and Holm as well.

After a brief introduction by athletic director Brad Edwards, Milleson took to the podium to say a few words before she had to return to the team. She’s in her 35th year of coaching, and has seen the resources for girls and women in sports increase over that time.

“I am becoming one of those that set a standard many, many years ago, as Title IX just became prevalent. And I’m proud to say that I am still today doing everything in my power to continue to coach, mentor and make a difference in student-athletes’ lives,” she said. “So the first person I would be remiss tonight not to thank is Sue Collins, who we so much at Mason and across the country owes so much to for Sue paving the way. We miss her with all our heart.”

However, Milleson did not fail to acknowledge why this day truly matters: It inspires young girls to continue in sports. She had a poem called Little Eyes, which she said was about the little eyes on Mason female athletes and leaders daily that set example for young girls.

“So keep dreaming your dreams, you little ones,” she said. “The old ones, too, keep dreaming and we will, we will have a great future.”

After the game senior Jacy Bolton and junior Marika Korpinen shared why playing, and winning, on National Girls and Women in Sports Day is so important to them, the team got their first win in a month, snapping an eight-game losing streak by defeating UMass 73-56.

“I love this day because there are a lot of girls that get to come to our games and there’s one in particular that little girl Frankie, who sits behind our bench,” Bolton said. “She, no matter what happens during the game she gives me the biggest hug afterward and at the end of the day that’s what this is all about and I’m just trying to use my platform as a student-athlete to inspire other little girls like her.”

Korpinen focused on what her playing at Mason, in the United States, means for the next generation of kids growing up in Finland.

“I know there’s a lot of eyes just watching us and I want to be there to inspire the next generation,” she said. “When I go home I want to go to practice and show them this is what we do, this is how amazing it can be. And so, days like this, just remind us how really important we are.”

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