Dariana Hollingsworth-Santana serving a ball

Hollingsworth-Santana serves a ball in a game against Georgia.

Women's History Month may be over, but it is still important to reflect on the trailblazing women who have paved the way in their industries — especially in male-dominated fields such as sports.

Vox sat down with MU female athletes Olivia Evans, Dariana Hollingsworth-Santana and Keiarra Slack to talk about how they became athletes, what led them to be who they are now and how they hope to inspire other young girls. 

Olivia Evans, Track & field (Thrower)

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Evans wants to be remembered for more than how far she can throw. She wants to be remembered as the girl who cared for others and advocated for others.

Olivia Evans is a redshirt sophomore in indoor track and a redshirt freshman in outdoor track. She is from Louisville, Kentucky and is in her third year at MU.

Who is your favorite female athlete of all time and why?

Allyson Felix. Not only does she have numerous accolades on the track, she is a woman for the people. Felix traveled for Sports Diplomacy for the U.S. State Department. I remember when I heard about this, I was a freshman in high school, and I remember this inspired me. As a young athlete, I loved seeing a Black woman represent the U.S. for more than just her athletic abilities and entertainment. Also, recently, Felix has been an advocate for women’s rights during maternity and for maternity leave. She has also been raising awareness for maternal mortality. Again, as a Black woman in society, it’s inspiring to see another Black woman use her platform for the advancement of women in areas outside of just sports. I genuinely have a fear of being pregnant and disregarded due to institutional racism in the medical field, and Felix is working to make the future better for women like myself.

What does being a female athlete mean to you?

Being a female athlete is exciting. I hear stories from my grandparents and great-grandparents about the pre-Title IX era and it is just exciting to be able to do what I love at a high level with freedom and support.

When did you realize you wanted to play in college?

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Evans poses for photos on media day.

I always knew I wanted to play basketball in college. I didn’t decide on doing track in college until my junior year, after I quit basketball. When I was little, I joked about being an LSU Tiger, and even now, I still ultimately achieved my goal of being a Tiger in the SEC, so that's exciting.

What brought you to Mizzou?

I came to MU for the journalism school. It definitely wasn’t my first choice when I was applying because I wanted a big city and a larger-than-life experience. I ended up getting the Brooks Scholarship at MU, which made it financially more affordable than even some in-state schools. The stars aligned and I found everything I really wanted at MU: a great track experience, an amazing J-school, affordability and that larger-than-life experience.

How do you hope to inspire young female athletes?

I hope young athletes can see a mentality of stewardship, social justice and leadership in me. I don’t really care if they never remember my name for the distances I threw, but if they remember I was the girl who cared about others and advocated for others and tried to make the world a better place, then I’ve done my job.

Dariana Hollingsworth-Santana, Volleyball

Dariana Hollingsworth-Santana is a senior on the MU volleyball team. She is from San Juan, Puerto Rico and has played volleyball for all of her four years at MU. 

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Hollingsworth-Santana wants young girls to know that no matter how big or how far away their dreams may seem, anything is possible.

Who is your favorite female athlete of all time and why?

Karina Ocasio. When I started playing, my late coach introduced me to several professional players, and Karina Ocasio, along with her sisters, was one of the most prominent performers at the time. Karina came from humble beginnings, much like I did. She represented everything that I wanted to become. She was a remarkable person on and off the court. Her game exuded humility and tenacity.

What does being a female athlete mean to you?

When I hear female athlete, I hear resilience and courage. From a young age in my sport, I had to overcome obstacles because of my inexperience and, to be honest, not enough connections. I was accustomed to hearing words like "settle" and "not good enough." Being a female athlete at this level means you have drive and heart.

When did you realize you wanted to play in college?

I started playing and competing fairly late for my sport, so I initially didn’t think I had the caliber to play at a collegiate level. But as I kept competing and training, the dream of playing collegiate seemed more and more attainable. I bought into the grind, and I made it possible.

What brought you to Mizzou?

I was recruited while competing with the youth’s Puerto Rican national team. I was in a rigorous and extensive recruiting process where I was contacted by top volleyball programs such as Nebraska, Ohio State and West Virginia. But I made a real connection with Wayne and Susan, and after one visit, I knew it was where I wanted to be.

How do you hope to inspire young female athletes?

I hope young female athletes can see me and relate. I hope they realize that I stood in their shoes before. What I hope they understand is that the dream may look distant and daunting, but the biggest challenge is overcoming your own voice telling you that you aren’t enough.

Keiarra Slack, Soccer

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Slack hopes to inspire young female athletes beyond sports.

Keiarra Slack is a junior on the MU soccer team and is from Parkland, Florida. She has been on the team for three years.

Who is your favorite female athlete of all time and why?

Serena Williams. She is unapologetically Black and proud. She doesn’t let anyone define who she is on or off the court, and she performs at the highest level with ease.

What does being a female athlete mean to you?

Being a female athlete means being a stepping stone to something so much bigger than myself. I remember growing up and seeing women like Sydney Leroux play for the national team, and that made me want to work harder, seeing someone who looked like me on the big stage. I hope that I can continue to perform and inspire another little girl to dig deeper and keep working hard toward her goals.

When did you realize you wanted to play in college?

I realized I wanted to play in college when I was in fifth grade, after training with some of the UCF women’s soccer players at the time.

What brought you to Mizzou?

New scenery from my hometown and the close-knit culture of the players and the Mizzou community.

How do you hope to inspire young female athletes?

I hope to inspire young female athletes by showing them that it is possible to get here and to be the best possible in anything, not just sports.

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Slack runs up and down the field during a game.

Just as women of previous generations have inspired these athletes to fulfill their dreams, they seek to be the same beacon for the young women who are watching them. 

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