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Front & Center: Little Women

The race enters its 25th year on April 20.

IU’s Little 500 tradition began including women in the 1950s, just not on two wheels. While the men tore up Bill Armstrong Stadium, the women were relegated to a short tricycle race in Assembly Hall. Women weren’t taken seriously on the track until 1987, when a team from the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority nearly qualified for the men’s race. The next year, coeds got their own event at the Little 500, and it enters its 25th year on April 20. Although the female cyclists race 100 laps, half the distance of the men’s race, they are every bit the campus royalty as their male counterparts. “It was a much bigger deal than I’d thought,” says Sarah Fredrickson, who was part of the winning team 10 years ago and remains an elite cyclist today. “Everyone on campus knew who I was.”

ROUND NUMBERS

33 – Teams in the women’s Little 500 race

4 – Riders on each team

22.758 – Fastest average speed, in mph, of a winning women’s team, set by Beyond Control in 1989

4 – Female competitors riders who have gone on to become professional cyclists

26 – Male competitors who have turned pro

2 – Male competitors who have since had sex changes

20 – Seconds, approximately, the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority missed qualifying for the men's race in 1987

33 – Teams in both the women’s and men’s races

2,376 — Spokes in revolution around the track on race day

1 - Future presidents who have attended the women's Little 500 race (then-Sen. Barack Obama on April 11, 2008)

$300 – Refundable deposit required per team for the two bikes supplied by the Little 500 committee

15,000 – Spectators, approximately, who watched the first women’s Little 500 race, as reported in The New York Times

$1,500,000 – Scholarship money raised by the Little 500 in its history

Photo by Adam P. Schweigert/WFIU.

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue.