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Faces of Title IX: UTRGV

Faces of Title IX: UTRGV

The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX with a special series featuring stories from conference members to commemorate the milestone anniversary of the passage of Title IX in 1972.

The Faces of Title IX: The WAC’s Celebration of 50 Years of Title IX will feature stories from current WAC institutions throughout the remainder of the 2022-23 academic year, highlighting key individuals from those institutions who have made a significant impact in and have promoted the importance of women in sports.

STORIES FROM UTRGV ATHLETICS

Cleopatra Borel, Throws Assistant Coach, UTRGV Track & Field

Four-time Olympian, three-time All-American and 2002 NCAA Champion Cleopatra Borel joined UTRGV as the throws assistant coach with the track & field programs in Jan. 2022.
 
Borel competed for the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic team in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. She was a finalist in the shot put in 2016, finishing seventh with a throw of 18.37 meters. Borel is a five-time Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee Sports Woman of the Year.
 
Borel won the NCAA Indoor Championship in the shot put while competing for UMBC in 2002 with a throw of 17.50 meters. She is a three-time UMBC Student-Athlete of the Year.

"I can confidently say Title IX offered opportunities to me, a walk-on student-athlete, that positively changed my life!" Borel said. "The act not only opened doors to education, collegiate and professional athletics, but to countless unimaginable experiences for me and many female athletes. I am eternally grateful for those who advocated for us and feel compelled to continue the work towards gender equality in sport. The journey of the female athlete is often marked with unique and challenging experiences, but we are here to support future generations of greatness."
 
Borel’s experience has translated into success for other student-athletes. As a volunteer assistant coach at Virginia Tech from 2003-08, Borel assisted with coaching nine NCAA Champions and more than 40 All-Americans in-part by demonstrating throwing and Olympic lifting techniques.
 
She went on to coach at Morgan State in 2009-10, implementing throwing technique and strength & conditioning programs that led her student-athletes to men’s MEAC Championships in the weight throw and javelin.
 
Borel is an inspiration off the field as well, having founded the Cleopatra Borel Foundation in 2016, which promotes youth empowerment through sport and education. Through her foundation, Borel has assisted the NiNa foundation in providing transitional housing for young women leaving state care, served as a mentor in the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development, distributed food and care packages to athletes and coaches, provided orthopedic equipment to para-athletes, and provided sporting equipment to local schools.

"Coach Borel adds an element to our world class UTRGV staff that is truly a rare find," UTRGV head coach Shareese Hicks said. "It goes beyond her NCAA Championship, and her coveted Olympian status. It goes behind her story of overcoming obstacle after obstacle throughout her life. It is something that cannot be coached. It is something that we all should strive to achieve. It is her ability to inspire and empower. What she has done throughout her life, and continues to do within our team, is the definition of the mission we have within our program. She makes it her duty to positively impact the lives of young people and has a profound effect on everyone around her; that is infectious, and will stand the test of time. We are so proud to have her on our team.” 
 
Borel served as an athlete representative on the Pan Am Sport Women in Sport Commission from 2018-21, focusing on promoting gender equity in sports.
 
Borel has also been a board member of the Trinidad Boxing Board of Control since 2016, during which time the board created a sustainable framework to develop the sport of boxing while using the sport as a conduit for youth and community development.
 
Borel graduated from UMBC in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in INDS Health Psychology. She went on to earn her master’s in health and physical education from Virginia Tech in 2008. Borel is currently working on her thesis for a Master of Science in Sports Management at the University of the West Indies.

 

    

Sara Hernandez, Associate Athletic Director for Marketing and Strategic Initiatives, UTRGV Athletics

Sara Hernandez was promoted to associate athletic director for marketing and strategic initiatives at UTRGV on July 1, 2021. She has been with the athletic department in various capacities since 2007-08, initially as a track & field student-athlete for four years. Hernandez then became a media relations graduate assistant for a year and a half before starting full time as the athletic marketing and promotions coordinator on January 2, 2013. She was later promoted to assistant athletic director for marketing.

In her current position, Hernandez oversees the department’s marketing and promotions efforts while also overseeing strategic initiatives including, but not limited to, increasing the department’s activity throughout the Rio Grande Valley, including on and around the Brownsville campus.

"Sara is the ultimate supporter of women," UTRGV Deputy Director of Athletics/Senior Woman Administrator Molly Castner said. "She recognizes that her success as an athlete and as an administrator in collegiate sports is a platform for her to support other women. Sara also provides a voice for female student-athletes at UTRGV through her excellent work as associate athletic director for marketing and strategic initiatives."

A native of Matamoros, Mexico, and a graduate of Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville, Hernandez joined legacy institution UTPA during the 2007-08 academic year. She immediately became a major contributor, and even got her name in the program records book a few times. Sara finished her running career No. 2 in the indoor 60-meter hurdles with a time of 9.23 in 2009, and No. 3 in the outdoor 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:03.69 in 2010.

"Growing up in a different country, I experienced how the opportunities for young girls and boys to participate in sports were vastly different," Hernandez said. "I am grateful that my parents and mentors went out of their way to support my passion for track and field, because being able to participate in sports has impacted my life in a positive way."
  
Despite the amount of time Hernandez had to put into athletics, she always put the student in student-athlete first. She earned AD Honor Roll honors in both the fall and spring of her senior year and Dean’s List Second Honors as a sophomore.

Hernandez even found time for extracurricular activities, writing for the weekly student newspaper, The Pan American, and a student magazine, The Panorama. In fact, she served as the sports editor of The Pan American as a senior, while also serving as the President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, running for UTPA, and earning GPAs of 3.0 or higher during both semesters.

Hernandez graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism-Advertising/PR, and then decided to pursue a Master of Business Administration at UTPA. As luck would have it, the Athletics Department had an opening for a graduate assistant in Athletic Media Relations. She applied for the job and got it.

"I feel honored to now work for an institution and in an industry that provides equal opportunities to everyone regardless of gender to participate in sports, and hope that UTRGV's outreach can motivate young girls in our community to join a sport," Hernandez said. "I believe that athletics, regardless of the level, changes lives because it changed mine. Title IX is important because it has and continues to change countless lives.
 
Now Hernandez gives back to the athletic program that she loves so much and serves as a role model for young women looking to get involved in athletics.

"Representation matters," Hernandez said. "I have come across countless women who have inspired me to continue making of athletics my career. I hope that my presence encourages young women to not only play, run, jump, and throw, but to truly hold space whether it is in the athletics industry or the professional world, whatever shape that takes for them."