Mt. Sterling woman creates new online space to shine a light on female Ky. athletes

MT. STERLING, Ky. (WKYT) – This past weekend saw the University of Kentucky Women’s Basketball team bring home an SEC title for the first time in 40 years.

It was a moment that highlights the determination of female athletes in the state and is a reminder for younger athletes that women in sports deserve praise, which is something that isn’t always highlighted.

On this International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting the story of one Mt. Sterling woman and her efforts to shine a light on female athletes in Kentucky by giving them a platform all their own.

With camera in hand, Tonia Witt, a sports photographer, is no stranger to capturing the highs and lows of both men’s and women’s sports.

As a former basketball player herself in Montgomery County, she knows there was a time that if you were a female playing sports, you might not get a lot of attention.

“I played sports, you played sports. We played back when it was from the ground up and you might have the people that were in the stands were your parents, nobody else came to watch you play, ”said Tonia Witt.

From the high school to college level, Witt has seen female athletes in this state carve out a place for themselves, but she has also seen firsthand, many times from behind her lens that it hasn’t always been easy.

“There is always a discrepancy, there is a lot of media folks there for the men and not so much for the women. They put in as much work forming their craft as the men do, so they deserve that extra exposure, ”said Witt.

So Witt has set out to change that by creating Rise Up Sports Media, an online platform focusing on girls and women in sports to give them their own well-deserved exposure in what can sometimes be a very male-dominated world.

“Really just empowering women, women empowering women,” said Witt.

The online site features athletes no matter the sport, statistics or talent level. Big name athletes like UK Women’s Guard Rhyne Howard serve as Rise Up Ambassador to not only celebrate the athletes, but encourage them as well.

This week Witt will host the first ever Rise Up Sports Media awards. Individual honors are named for some of the greats to have played in this state, like Lea Wise Prewitt, Cassidy Rowe and Valerie Still. In fact, the “Still I Rise” award named for the UK great is about more than just sports.

“It’s going to a female athlete in western Kentucky that was affected by the tornadoes, they are having to rise above a lot of adversity and so she is actually going to be in attendance for our awards program,” said Witt.

Nearly 50 years ago Title IX helped pave the way for a more level playing field for young women in athletics.

What Tonia Witt is doing in the year 2022 is continuing that effort for female athletes all across Kentucky, reminding them to continue rising up and playing hard.

“While that was tremendous help to female athletes, there is still disparity and we have to shed light on that to get the playing field to be more even,” said Witt.

The Rise Up Sports Media Awards will take place Wednesday, March 9 from 4-5 pm at the Hilton in downtown Lexington during the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Tournament at Rupp Arena. To learn more about Rise Up Sports Media click here.

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