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How the Lawsuit Against Nike Represents Women’s Fight for Equality in the Sports Industry

The discrimination lawsuit against Nike has brought to light the challenges that women face in an industry that has historically been dominated by men.

Bailey Knecht



Nike - Equality

When two former Nike employees brought a class-action lawsuit against Nike for gender discrimination practices, they did more than just question the status quo of the sports apparel giant. They started an even larger discussion about the state of women in the sports industry, and the fight for gender equality in the workplace.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Oregon, claims that Nike “intentionally and willfully discriminated against [women] with respect to pay, promotions, and conditions of employment.”

“With class action, this isn’t about one woman and one manager,” said Laura Salerno Owens, the lead attorney on the case and a partner at Markowitz Herbold. “It’s about a company-wide practice and a culture that fundamentally needs improvement.”

“They are very talented women, and really, the long-term impact is devastating,” she added. “It’s really insidious when fitting in means putting up with harassment and discrimination.”

Sports have the power to bring people together, but Salerno Owens said the “boys’ club” culture in the sports industry makes it hard for women to thrive.

“I think it’s one of the things that makes it so disappointing,” said Salerno Owens. “Sports are supposed to be the ultimate level playing field. If you’re skilled and work hard and play hard and you’re good, you’re going to get playing time. In the sports context, all this is about is an equal playing field — an equal opportunity to perform.”

Beyond the impact on the women themselves, experts throughout the sports and business industry have spoken up on the lawsuit’s potential consequences for Nike as a brand.

“Given that Nike is so public and wants to expand its brand among women, this situation cannot be good for the reputation,” said Mark Conrad, an associate professor and director of sports business at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business. “They’re trying to cater to a younger demographic, a female demographic, and they try to pride themselves with an ethical culture. [The lawsuit] could be quite harmful in the short run.”

Denise Lee Yohn, a brand leadership expert, discussed the topic in an even broader sense, delving into the importance of having a positive workplace environment that reflects organizational values.

As a recent guest on Retail Dive’s Conversational Commerce podcast, which looks into retail news and trends, Lee Yohn explained how a sound culture can be beneficial to companies’ overall success.

“If you want to stand out as a brand; if you want to deliver customer experiences that bring your brand, attributes and values to life; if you want to achieve the specific business results that you’re looking for and address the unique challenges that you as a business and organization have — then you need to have a culture that is unique and that really embodies the uniqueness of what you stand for,” she said to podcast host Corinne Ruff. “That, really, is your brand.”

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“Your culture and your brand need to be mutually reinforcing and tightly integrated and aligned,” Lee Yohn added. “Without that, you’re not going to have a competitive advantage and the brand value that you need to succeed.”

By bringing to light the discriminatory culture at Nike, the plaintiffs have opened up the conversation about workplace culture that Lee Yohn alluded to. Nike has already made moves towards bettering the organization, including the implementation of a workplace culture review and the firing of a number of executives this year.

After an internal pay review, the company announced last month that it would be adjusting the salaries of more than 7,000 employees.

Interestingly enough, the lawsuit comes at a time during which Nike has rolled out a number of progressive campaigns, including the announcement of Colin Kaepernick as the face of the 30th-anniversary celebration of the “Just Do It” slogan.

The company has also heavily featured Serena Williams in recent ads, emphasizing her strength as a woman and her drive to overcome adversity. The inspirational, inclusive campaigns stand in stark contrast to the discrimination allegations, but they may be a sign of Nike’s increased commitment to equality in the wake of the lawsuit.

Despite the changes at Nike, Salerno Owens stressed the importance of continuous effort when it comes to addressing toxic professional environments and creating a climate where women are valued and respected.

“The goal here is not to put Nike out of business, but to continue to be better for both men and women,” concluded Salerno Owens. “It’s hard to predict when you’re going to have that break-through moment and see that glass ceiling shatter, but it’s never going to shatter if you don’t keep tapping at it.”

Bailey Knecht is a Northeastern University graduate and has worked for New Balance, the Boston Bruins and the Northeastern and UMass Lowell athletic departments. She covers media and marketing for Front Office Sports, with an emphasis on women's sports and basketball. She can be contacted at


Minor League Baseball Connects Women to Help ‘Lift’ Careers

Looking to enhance careers, as well as retain and advance women in professional careers, Minor League Baseball launched the LIFT Mentorship Program.





Image via MiLB LIFT

Women in Minor League Baseball are making deeper connections with each other through the league’s new Women in Baseball LIFT Mentorship Program.

MiLB launched LIFT, or Leaders Inspiring Future Talent, late last year to help enhance women’s experiences in the professional setting, retain talent and increase advancement into senior roles, said Belicia Montgomery, MiLB manager of data and business processes. The 34 mentor-mentee pairs, or LIFTers and LIFTees, had their first group calls this month.

The program was created by the MiLB Women in Baseball Leadership Committee as there has long been demand for more opportunities for women in the industry to connect outside of the annual Women in Baseball Leadership Event at the Winter Baseball Meetings and Coffee & Connections at the MiLB Innovators Summit.

“We continually evolve the programming at existing events, but with the limited time slots it’s become more and more difficult to offer additional on-site opportunities,” Montgomery said. “We’re always brainstorming new concepts to provide ways to engage more than just once or twice a year.”

READ MORE: NASCAR Diversity Program and Rev Racing Team Up to Shape Next Generation

The committee convened prior to the 2018 season and developed the LIFT Mentorship Program with the goal of launching it in 2019.

Applications were sent out in September and nearly 200 women applied, and Montgomery and MiLB Events & Partnership Coordinator Jessica Nori spent nearly a month matching the inaugural 34 pairs. The application was brief, but with questions that could elicit detailed answers, Montgomery said, which helped pair those with compatible career goals, objectives and interests.

“The first year, we started with a conservative number of pairs to ensure we had all the resources needed to provide adequate support to the participants,” she said. “We’re looking to grow the program each year.”

Montgomery said the future iterations of the LIFT Mentorship Program will likely be different as it evolves with experience. The program might be expanded in future years to include a peer-to-peer or executive mentoring aspect, Montgomery said. Any changes or additions to the program would likely occur three or more years in the future, as the next couple of years will be focused on expanding the base program.

The most important part for the inaugural group is that they take advantage and buy into the program since they applied and sought it out, Montgomery said. One of the program’s LIFTers is Reno Aces General Manager Emily Jaenson, who said it’s important for every industry to focus on developing the next generation of executives.

With that in mind, Jaenson said the league’s employees are lucky with MiLB’s support and programming of LIFT.

“Women are the minority population in Minor League Baseball, so this program focuses specifically on developing female employees with a goal to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions,” Jaenson said.

The program itself is important as it provides women associated with MiLB’s 160 teams across the United States the ability to connect with others, which can be difficult at times in sports.

READ MORE: Why the Premier Lacrosse League and Women’s Professional Lacrosse League Joined Forces

“We have some clubs that are so small that there is only one woman in the front office, so they don’t have a person to talk to about the unique challenges to them,” Montgomery said. “It can sometimes be intimidating to meet and network with others, so we want to provide a platform to make it easier.”

She also said there’s an aspiration that the program can help spur similar initiatives in other leagues and organizations.

“Hopefully it can be magnified and all women in the sports industry can connect with each other,” Montgomery said. “But we are all about taking baby steps and developing the program in a timeframe that makes sense for everyone involved.’”

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One of Next Year’s Biggest NFL Free Agents May Not Be a Player

David Mulugheta is only 35, but has negotiated in excess of $500 million in contracts.

Scot Chartrand



David Mulugheta with clients – (l to r) Deshaun Watson, Landon Collins, Quinten Rollins, Quandre Diggs, agent David Mulugheta, and Bobby Wagner (Photo via David Mulugheta)

David Mulugheta (@davidmulugheta) is only 35 years old, but he’s already earned his way atop the NFL agent business.

In eight short years representing players, he has already developed a roster of 30 of the league’s most exciting stars, including All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, three-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, All-Pro cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Casey Hayward, All-Pro guard Kelechi Osemele, All-Pro safety Landon Collins, Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Thomas and second-year star quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Collectively, Mulugheta has negotiated in excess of $500 million in contracts, with roughly half his roster poised to sign massive second deals in the coming years.

Mulugheta has spent his entire career as a member of industry powerhouse Athletes First (A1) and confirmed that he is engaged in negotiations with Athletes First to potentially become an equity partner as opposed to experiencing his own free agency for the first time in his career.

The Path to Becoming an Agent

Mulugheta’s path to success has been anything but conventional.

As the son of Eritrean immigrants who fled a war-torn country in search of a better life, Mulugheta learned through his parents’ struggle and sacrifice that hard work and dedication were the keys to success.

Neither of his parents spoke English when they arrived in the states and were forced to take jobs that required them to work incredibly long hours for very little pay in return.

Mulugheta’s father worked as a taxi driver by day and as a gas station attendant by night, while his mother cleaned homes and took care of the children.

Given that both parents worked full-time and were unable to afford childcare, Mulugheta’s father occasionally had his sons ride along in his cab, making for a unique babysitting arrangement.

And while his parents were proud of the opportunities they were able to provide their family, they wanted more for Mulugheta and his siblings, so they prioritized the importance of education above all else. They saw it as the key to the American Dream.

To illustrate his parents’ focus on academic achievement, Mulugheta recalled a time his eighth-grade teacher paid his parents a visit at the family’s home in Dallas.

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His father was asleep, during a rare break from work, and woke up to Mulugheta’s teacher sitting in the family’s living room. The teacher had made an in-person trip to inform Mulugheta’s parents that he had been disrupting the class.

“So, what’s his grade in the class?” his father asked bluntly. “A ninety-nine,” the teacher responded.

Mulugheta’s father, impressed with his son’s accomplishment and not concerned with nonsense, casually turned around and left to go back to sleep.

He cared that his son got the job done. He wasn’t preoccupied with the style points.

Along with Mulugheta, each of his siblings met the high academic expectations set by their household and received the education that their parents had always envisioned.

His older and younger brothers earned an MBA and J.D., respectively, each from Southern Methodist University (SMU); while his sister attended Harvard University, which led to a unique opportunity.

In the midst of her undergraduate studies, Mulugheta’s sister took a year and a half leave of absence to work for President Barack Obama’s administration at the White House. As both her service and the Obama presidency concluded, the family was invited to take a photo with the 44th President.

David Mulugheta and family with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office (Photo via David Mulugheta)

From a small village in Africa, to an invitation to meet the President of the United States in the Oval Office, Mulugheta’s parents personified the American Dream. As a constant reminder of how far they’ve come, the picture of the family standing shoulder-to-shoulder with President Obama sits on Mulugheta’s desk.

Similar to his sister, Mulugheta’s time in college led him down a unique path. At the University of Texas at Austin, Mulugheta developed friendships with, and earned the respect of, a number of football players, including running back Jamaal Charles, who was preparing to enter the NFL at the time. Having just applied to law school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Mulugheta planned to study corporate law, however, during a trip to visit Charles in California in advance of the NFL Draft, Mulugheta met agent Andrew Kessler and everything changed.

Kessler, who was one of Charles’ agents at Athletes First (A1), asked if Mulugheta would be interested in an internship at the agency. Instantly attracted to the opportunity to not only represent athletes like his friend Charles and help them maximize their potential but also to work in an industry that he loved, Mulugheta began to imagine a new career path upon graduating from law school.

Mulugheta with Earl Thomas (left) and Jamaal Charles (right) (Photo via David Mulugheta)

Hitting the Ground Running

Mulugheta began his career by signing future hall of famer, Earl Thomas. With over 800 certified agents competing to represent the best talent entering the NFL, Mulugheta’s ability to sign Thomas, immediately made him a viable player in the industry. Eight years later, Thomas is a six-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl champion who has earned in excess of $50 million on the field.

Following Thomas in 2012, Mulugheta continued to sign big names, including current Raiders All-Pro guard Kelechi Osemele and former Giants linebacker Keenan Robinson.

Once Mulugheta’s breakout draft class of 2013 was announced, NFL insiders and key industry stakeholders began to take notice.

After landing first-round safety Kenny Vaccaro as a client, he also signed additional draft picks Marquise Goodwin, Alex Okafor, and Brandon Jenkins.

Mulugheta believes that Earl Thomas’s success on the field and his status as a former Longhorn was one of the keys to recruiting other Texas Exes (Vaccaro, Goodwin, and Okafor all attended UT).

Mulugheta’s success continued, as he secured first rounder Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama in 2014, followed by first-round pick Malcom Brown (DT) and fellow Texas alumni Quandre Diggs, and Malcolm Brown (RB) signed on two years later in a class along with second-round safety Landon Collins and cornerback Quinten Rollins of Miami University (Ohio).

Mulugheta with Jalen Ramsey (right) and Corey Coleman (middle) (Photo via David Mulugheta)

First round picks continued to come Mulugheta’s way — Jalen Ramsey and Corey Coleman joined Mulugheta’s roster in 2016. Deshaun Watson, Malik Hooker, Charles Harris, Budda Baker and Montravius Adams headlined an impressive 2017 NFL Draft class.

Add in several star veteran signees, and his current client list becomes unprecedentedly stacked for such a young agent.

Most recently, Mulugheta landed projected 2018 first round pick, Florida State safety Derwin James. Coupled with the fact that he and his wife welcomed their third child, 2018 is shaping up to be another good year for the Mulugheta family.

All told, Mulugheta’s roster includes:

  • 9 total 1st Round draft picks
  • 7 total 2nd Round draft picks
  • 25 combined Pro Bowl appearances
  • 3 Super Bowl championships

Mulugheta’s 2017 Draft Class – (l to r) Charles Harris, Budda Baker, Deshaun Watson, agent David Mulugheta, Montravius Adams, and Malik Hooker (Photo via David Mulugheta)

The 2017 season was particularly successful for Mulugheta’s clients. A whopping nine of them were selected to the Pro Bowl in Orlando, and a tenth (Deshaun Watson) almost certainly would have joined them if not for a season-ending knee injury.

“Because of what my parents had accomplished, I grew up knowing the only limits that exist are the ones we set,” Mulugheta noted looking back on the unprecedented success from 2017.

Only in his mid-30s, it’s incredible what he’s been able to achieve in a business where the vast majority of elite agents have 20+ years of experience under their belts.

Mulugheta with Deshaun Watson (Photo via David Mulugheta)

Keys to Success as a Rising, Young Agent

How has Mulugheta been able to gain such significant success? He attributes it to his commitment to building and maintaining genuine relationships.

Handling 30 clients while attempting to create a 1:1, relationship-based experience for each individual is no small task in his business.

In order to preserve the level of personal attention and connection with his players, Mulugheta has been thoughtful about how to effectively grow his clientele.

“You have to be tactful and critical. You want good players, but more importantly, you want good people,” Mulugheta said.

Since Mulugheta prides himself on his hands-on approach to representation, maintaining a selective client list is pivotal.

“Small, but powerful,” Mulugheta pointed out. “The important thing is that you work with quality players that share your values and inspire you. It makes taking those 2 am or 3 am calls a lot easier.”

To Mulugheta, his players are more than just clients, they are family. He treats them as younger brothers and believes that it’s his responsibility to ensure they reach their full potential, both on and off the football field. Not satisfied with only being the man who helped his clients get good contracts, Mulugheta strives for deeper, lifelong connections with them. He serves as a godfather to some of his clients’ children and acted as best man at a number of their weddings.

This approach has fostered a number of strong bonds, not only between Mulugheta and his clients but also among his clients themselves.

Mulugheta with Jalen Ramsey (left) and Derwin James (right) (Photo via David Mulugheta)

For instance, leading up to this April’s NFL Draft, Mulugheta’s newest client, Florida State safety Derwin James, has been training out west in Orange County, California.

Fellow Athletes First safeties Earl Thomas and Landon Collins both flew out to Southern California to work with James at Mulugheta’s request.

“We are a small family, and we look out for each other,” Mulugheta said.You have guys who are interested in mentoring others. That’s a big plus, to have guys who really want to be successful, and at the same time willing to help one another. Men who truly personify the proverb, iron sharpens iron.”

Mulugheta believes his family-oriented style has created an environment where players have high expectations for success and hold each other accountable, not wanting to let the other members of their family down.

A cursory look at Mulugheta’s Instagram feed (@davidmulugheta) shows you how much he values these relationships. You’ll see picture after picture of Mulugheta spending time with his clients on and off the field.

Mulugheta with Kenny Vaccaro (left) and Rafael Bush (right) (Photo via David Mulugheta)

Mulugheta remembered one unique example where Kenny Vaccaro advised him to pursue a college senior as a client, based on Vaccaro’s film study. Mulugheta noted, “My guys want me to succeed just as much as I want them to.”

Mulugheta’s colleagues at Athletes First have also witnessed Mulugheta’s interest in maintaining genuine relationships.

Brian Murphy, the [President] of Athletes First, described Mulugheta as, “the same person, no matter who he is around. His clients – and our A1 family – know exactly what who David is – a passionate advocate who makes all of our lives better professionally and personally and who does so with absolute conviction.”

In response to the compliment, Mulugheta noted, “All praise is short-lived. And although it is humbling when good work is noticed, next year someone else could take your spot. Like many of my clients, where I came from, you had to fight for success— it was never guaranteed.”

Mulugheta’s clientele and their performance speak the loudest in endorsing his work, but the difference he has made for them in their careers on and off the field goes beyond that.

Mulugheta with Earl Thomas at the 2018 Pro Bowl (Photo via David Mulugheta)

For Seahawk Earl Thomas (@earl) the Longhorn bond is strong as well as the bond he has with the entire family of fellow clients.

“The most important thing to me when I was deciding on agents was working with someone that I could put my total trust in. To be successful in the business of football, you have to put your all into the game, and I wanted to make sure whoever I chose as an agent was doing the same thing for me off the field. David has done that and more for me, and I couldn’t have made a better decision. You always hear the saying that someone is like family, well David is family.”

Mulugheta with Kevin Byard at the 2018 Pro Bowl (Photo via David Mulugheta)

Titans All-Pro safety Kevin Byard (@kb31_savage) entered the league with the Tennessee Titans in 2016 but only signed on with Mulugheta this past season.

He requested a meeting with Mulugheta, made the switch, and hasn’t looked back since. For him, the difference in representation made his life easier on the field by eliminating worries off the field. This past season, his career reached a peak after being named to his first Pro Bowl as well as being recognized as first-team All-Pro.

“I made the switch at first because I knew that David had some of the top DB’s in the league, and I wanted to be a part of that brotherhood. A year later, I continue to see that he fights for his guys to get everything they deserve and more. What’s more impressive, David really develops friendships with all his clients that will last a lot longer than our football careers will.”

However, Mulugheta’s successful track record has also been met with a fair share of obstacles.

Throughout the years, Mulugheta has had to overcome challenges on the recruiting trail based on his age and ethnicity. Like many industries, the sports agent business has been historically overrepresented by middle-aged white men. During recruiting meetings, Mulugheta has had to deal with parents looking to see if “the real agent” would be joining the meeting. Or while backstage at NFL drafts and other special events, Mulugheta has often been mistaken for a player’s family member. His youth, complexion, and background are a rarity in the industry, yet have also served as an asset, helping him connect with his clients.

Mulugheta understands the racial biases that come along with the job. An attorney by trade, he operates in statistically one of the least diverse fields in America. Mulugheta appreciates his responsibility in helping other young, black men to succeed, stating, “I refuse to change my behavior or hide my identity for anyone. I just hope that my path can inspire other young, black men to stay true to themselves, work hard and pursue their dreams, even if those dreams don’t occur on a field or court.”

In the relatively short time, Mulugheta has been a certified contract advisor, he has been a part of negotiating some of the NFL’s largest contracts. On three separate occasions, Mulugheta’s clients have become the highest paid player in the history of the NFL at their respective positions.

  • Earl Thomas signed a contract making him the highest paid safety in NFL history as a 4-year extension in 2014 with the Seahawks for $40 million with more than $25 million guaranteed.
  • Bobby Wagner inked a contract making him the highest paid middle linebacker in NFL history in 2015 as a free agent with the Seahawks for $43 million over four years.
  • Kelechi Osemele signed a contract making him the highest paid guard in NFL history, back in 2016. The 5-year deal with the Raiders is worth up to $60 million.

Results like those can grab attention and change stereotypes in a hurry.

Mulugheta with Bobby Wagner (Photo via David Mulugheta)

What’s Next

The 2018 season will mark Mulugheta’s final year on his contract at Athletes First. While the odds are he stays put at A1, he is sure to have a number of agencies trying to poach him, offering long-term deals akin to those received by his clients. This year, the recruiter becomes the recruited.

“A1 is a great company,” Mulugheta commented. “They have given me every tool to be successful. Ownership allowed me to flourish and didn’t keep their thumb on me.”

One principle Mulugheta will certainly continue to implement is his hands-on approach with his clients. From booking flights to organizing offseason camps to assisting with family vacations, and helping with special moments, Mulugheta will continue to remain a staple in the lives of his clients.

In an effort to give back to the community they call home, Mulugheta and his wife founded the Fair Catch Foundation.

The organization is planning its second annual bowling event this summer to help underserved populations in the greater Austin community. Last year, they partnered with a number of Mulugheta’s clients and former Longhorn players to host the inaugural event.

The goals for the foundation include creating “generational change” by investing in vulnerable families. Having come from the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, Mulugheta understands how helping an individual gain an education and employment can change the trajectory of that family and their community.

Mulugheta’s work stands out at every level, including through his authentic commitment to his clients.

His journey has been anything but traditional.

The unique aspects of his upbringing, his genuine nature and deep connection with his clients, and his interest in being more than just an agent have redefined his role and should serve as a model for the next generation of sports agents.

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How Jack Irving Evaluates Talent and Promotes Diversity at Toyota Racing Combine

Irving and the TRD team recently held a three-day driver combine at Irwindale Speedway, where six of the eight drivers were female competitors.

Kraig Doremus



Jack Irving

With an eye for young talent and the ability to watch hundreds of races every year, Jack Irving and the team at Toyota Racing Development have become some of the best at finding and developing NASCAR’s newest stars.

One of the most unique ways that Irving and the TRD crew have evaluated talent is through a driver combine that focuses not only on on-track performance and skill but also off-track elements of the sport like communication and physical fitness. In late August, TRD held a three-day driver combine at Irwindale Speedway in California.

“When we did the combine initially four or five years ago, there were a lot of young kids racing (like Riley Herbst, Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland),” Irving said. “We wanted to get them together and figure out how we could get eyes on them and learn from them. This is the second combine we’ve done of this nature to evaluate the newest talent wanting to make their way into the sport.”

SEE MORE: Natural Light Wants to Help You Land a Dream Job

Irving and his team are often asked, why run a combine rather than enter drivers into a late model race? While the fees associated with a combine can include track rentals and paying a number of people to be involved, Irving sees the one-on-one coaching as the biggest benefit of the combine.

“While setting up a combine can be difficult, it’s important that we get them out into a race setting and coach and teach them,” said Irving. “It also allows us to get more assessments done and give them data to help them develop. Getting them exposed to a different coach and a car is not always easy. They (the drivers) have to learn the crew chiefs and spotters .The drivers need to learn to communicate what the car is doing and the ins and outs of the car. It’s not a final exam, just certainly a baseline test.”

This combine placed a heavy emphasis on female drivers – with six of the eight competitors being female – including 16-year-old drivers Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

Hollan is a fourth-generation racer who began racing sprint cars at age five. Growing up in a racing family, she spent the majority of her time racing on dirt, but the combine helped her make the transition to asphalt surfaces.

SEE MORE: Mazda Uses Racing to Better Tell Brand Story

“Communication is really key on the asphalt surfaces,” Hollan said. “Especially when you’re first starting out, being able to communicate with my spotter and with the people around me has helped me. Being around other drivers has helped as well. Just learning the lingo of things in the asphalt world is a little bit different but I have really enjoyed it.”

Despite tackling a new surface at the combine, Hollan has a simple goal every time she gets behind the wheel: be competitive.

“Whenever I get the chance to run, I want to be competitive and consistent,” Hollan said. “That’s my big thing. There’s really no limit that I want to put on myself. I never thought I would be this far at my age already, and I don’t want to limit that but I would be open to any opportunity. I see a lot of girls from age 18-19 fall off and become focused on other things. I think that’s my biggest shot to stand out. I have no intentions of quitting.”

Truedson, also 16, began her racing career just seven years ago with the Forks Karting Association in North Dakota. Since getting behind the wheel in 2011, she’s won multiple championships – eight of them to be exact – four FKA championships and four North Dakota State Karting championships.

While she’s won multiple championships, Truedson’s first time on asphalt came at Irwindale.

“This entire experience has been so unique for me,” Truedson said. “It’s the biggest track I have ever been on. I’ve never raced on asphalt before, so to be able to do that is pretty cool. I’ve never run a race longer than 30 laps so to go out there and do 75 laps multiple times and then 50 laps is definitely a lot more taxing than any race I’ve ever done. “

While Truedson and the other drivers were behind the wheel at the combine, many aspects of their fitness were analyzed, from heart rate to temperature to how much they’re sweating and even their water intake. What comes out of those analytics is a report that the drivers receive to help them become more physically fit.

SEE MORE: How iRacing Helped William Byron Jumpstart His Career

“From a data perspective, we have multiple streams that we’re able to pull from,” Irving noted. “We’ll give the drivers anything they need to develop and make every effort to bring them back for a second test. We try to get them back within a month, especially if we haven’t seen much of them or worked with them often.”

As the Toyota combine combines elements of racing with physical fitness and off-track communication and interaction, it truly challenges the drivers invited. Hollan summed up her experience showing gratitude for the opportunity and the embracing the challenges of competing in such a competitive industry.

“The combine has challenged us on the track but also off the track,” she said. “To be able to be a part of this and get to have this opportunity is pretty cool. I saw the most improvement on the track for sure with how much finesse you have to have to drive these cars. It definitely is harder than it looks because. From the outside looking in, you might not realize how tough it is to drive these cars and do what these guys do day in and day out.”

What’s next for the Irving and his combines? He wants to do a large combine annually and have smaller ones on a quarterly basis. The quarterly combines would feature more on-track action and in a shorter span of days. And most importantly, it would allow Toyota to expand to another track in a different region of the country.

“As these combines grow and we continue to progress, we can add a track in another region and have the chance to see more drivers across the country,” Irving said. “Irwindale Speedway is a nice home base for the West, but we would potentially have the chance to expand to the east coast and see even more talent.”

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