A trans-identified male high school student has won the Fastest Sophomore Girl award at a race meet in Belfast, Maine this past weekend. Soren Stark-Chessa previously floundered while running in the male category, and only began participating as a “female” student this year.
In 2022, while representing Coast Waldorf High School in Freeport, Stark-Chessa came in 25th place at the Maine XC Festival of Champions where he ran as a freshman boy, and 14th place at the Southern Maine Class C Regional XC Championship in the Division C Boys 5000 Meter Run Finals.
But since transitioning to “female” sometime within the last year, Stark-Chessa had begun to dominate the female categories, rapidly improving his standing in record time.
On September 30, Stark-Chessa took 5th place at the Festival of Champions in the female category, with a time that would have ranked him 162nd if he had raced in the male category. One week later, on October 5, Stark-Chessa took first place at the Cape Elizabeth High School 2023 cross country race, besting the fastest female runner by nearly 2 minutes.
On October 21, Stark-Chessa seized the title of “Fastest Sophomore Girl” at a regional high school cross country championship, completing the 3.1 mile course over 80 seconds faster than his female competitors.
Stark-Chessa, who was previously ranked 172nd in the Freshman Boys category, is set to compete in the female category again on October 28.
In late September, his participation as a “female” runner began to receive backlash after footage of one of the races he ran in began to circulate on social media. In one video, shared by Shawn McBreairty, spectators could be heard shouting “way to cheat, bro!” as Stark-Chessa ran past them.
On X (formerly Twitter), the International Council on Women’s Sports highlighted the exasperation of a female runner who competed against Stark-Chessa the recent Maine championship.
High school senior Haley Williams, who finished in 3rd place, told the Portland Press Herald that she knew there was no chance of her winning against Stark-Chessa, stating: “As you probably know there is a runner that identifies as female, and they were running the boys’ race last year, and they decided to run the girls’ race this year. And it’s really, it’s very upsetting to me because I’ve worked my butt off all year.”
Some are also pointing out that Stark-Chessa’s father, Dr. Frank Chessa, is the director of clinical ethics at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
The Center has a Gender Clinic in which Dr. Chessa provides ethical guidance. According to the Clinic Handbook: “We have a gender affirmative approach to treatment. We do not approve of any kind of conversion therapy.” The Clinic offers “puberty blockers” as well as cross-sex hormones, and provides links to WPATH standards of care, The Gender Unicorn, a “Guide to Safe Tucking” and “Safe Binding.”
Following backlash, school officials directed concerned parents to the Maine Principals Association Handbook, which is in the process of being amended to include gender self-identification policies in accordance with the 2021 Maine Human Rights Act.
As per the Act, it is unlawful for educational institutions to “deny a person equal opportunity in athletic programs” or “extracurricular” activities on the basis of “gender identity.” The Gender Identity Equity Committee that dictates school policy is comprised of individuals “with experience in gender identity health care and the World Professions Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of care.”
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