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Principia School Celebrates a Century of Women in Sports

Founded in 1898, Principia School boasts a rich history of accomplishments in women’s athletics with one of the longest traditions of girls’ sports in the nation. Just over one hundred years ago, an athletics program for girls was created at the school, providing opportunities for girls to play a variety of sports and for women to coach and hold athletic leadership positions. In honor of this groundbreaking milestone and International Women’s History Month, Principia School is celebrating the achievements of standout athletes and teams throughout the years. The School is marking this milestone with special, ongoing content on principiaschool.org and Principia’s social media accounts.

Honoring a Legacy of Excellence

The origins of the girls’ athletics program first appeared in the 1921 Principia School yearbook: “In the fall of 1919, a movement was begun at Principia to stimulate and organize interest in athletics for girls.” In 1920, Katherine (Whitney) Curtis was appointed director and coach of the Girls’ Athletics Department where she coached Principia School’s first girls’ basketball team. She also served as the girls’ field hockey coach, which boasted an impressive roster of 120 young women.

“We are very proud to recognize this significant and exciting milestone,” says interim Head of School Tami Gavaletz. “As we celebrate our history, it's important to appreciate the amazing athletes this school has fostered—from Olympians and All-American athletes to national and Ivy League champions. These women have made an incredible impact on their communities and the world.”

An athlete who is making her mark on the world of athletics right now is Lauren Cornthwaite (US’95) who played field hockey and basketball and competed on the track and field team. She went on to play field hockey as a four-year starter at Dartmouth College and later coached at the University of Pennsylvania and Lindenwood University. Cornthwaite was selected as a Regional All-American, a two-time-All-Ivy Team Member, and team captain during her time at Dartmouth.  

“One of the biggest takeaways I gained from my time spent playing sports at Principia Upper School was recognizing my unlimited capabilities,” says Cornthwaite. “Coaches taught us about discipline through a deep sense of love and purpose. I carried the stories, experiences, and qualities I gained at the Upper School into my field hockey career at Dartmouth College.”

Cornthwaite now serves as the director of Aim Field Hockey in Kirkwood, Missouri, where she shares her love for a sport she’s deeply passionate about with girls and young women of all ages. Apart from creating talented field hockey players, Aim works to help young girls develop self-confidence, perseverance, and respect in all areas of their lives. 

She attributes what she’s learned about character, perseverance, and grit to her unique athletic experience at Principia. Character education is an integral part of the Principia School athletics program and shines through its athletes who practice empathy, compassion, and good sportsmanship out on the field. 

“I am so grateful for my fellow female coaches, teammates, and my overall experience at Principia School that gave me the tools and inspiration to turn my passion into a successful business that I run today,” Cornthwaite says.

Looking to the Future 

The School continues to look for ways to honor standout athletes of the past and present while creating enhanced opportunities for female athletes to thrive. The grand opening of the new Simon Athletic Complex, a state-of-the-art fitness and performance center and gymnasium will take place this summer with classrooms and meeting rooms that honor Principia's female athletes and coaches who propelled the program forward. 

“The opening of Simon Athletic Complex is the perfect opportunity to not only commemorate a century of women’s athletics but to celebrate the present—current athletes who will go out into the world and make waves in the world of sports,” says Director of Athletics Shawn Brown.

Visit the social media posts by clicking on the names below to read more about Principia’s notable women athletes and coaches.

Lauren Cornthwaite

Holly Huff Bruland

Katherine Whitney

Naomi Nutwell