This International Women's Day (March 8) we're showcasing five, history-making female athletes who have roots in Albany County. From Olympic competitors to those who've accomplished record-breaking victories, these women have made their mark on sports history. Witness sports history be made in Albany from March 29 to April 1 when eight teams take to the court for the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight during the 2024 NCAA Division I Women's Regional at the MVP Arena

Kit DesLauriers

Born in Albany, Kit DesLauriers brings new meaning to the notion of reaching new heights. One of the most accomplished ski mountaineers of all time, DesLauriers made history in 2006 by becoming the first person in the world to ski the Seven Summits – the highest peak on each continent. This includes Mount Everest, Kilimanjaro, and Mount Vinson. In her impressive career, DesLauriers was also the first woman to win two consecutive World Freeskiing Champion titles. She was named one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year in 2015 and joined the US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2019.  DesLauriers shares her journey in her 2021 memoir Higher Love: Climbing and Skiing the Seven Summits.

Tara VanDerveer

Just this year, Stanford University women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, made history as the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball for both the men's and women's divisions. In late January, she led her team to victory and earned her 1203rd win, passing former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski who held the title for the past 13 years. Over the course of her legendary 45-year career, VanDerveer has won three national championships, has been named National Coach of the Year five times, and has even led the US basketball team to Olympic gold. Having grown up in the Capital-Saratoga region, one of VanDerveer’s stops on her journey of success was UAlbany, where she played her freshman season from 1971 to 1972. 

Grace Claxton


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The first female athlete from the Albany Great Danes to become an Olympian, Grace Claxton has quickly sprinted to success since she began her career in Track and Field a little over a decade ago. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Claxton was introduced to UAlbany's Director of Track and Field, Roberto Vives, during the 2012 Spring Break Classic in Carolina, PR. At the time she was a high school senior who'd already had her eyes set on UAlbany. Four years later, Claxton joined the Puerto Rico team for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

She's also competed in the 2015 and 2019 Pan American Games, and multiple international competitions, most recently in the 2024 World Indoor Championships held in Glasglow. Claxton continues to inspire young athletes attending UAlbany, serving as a Volunteer Assistant Coach for Track and Field. 

Nina Cutro-Kelly

International level judoka, Nina Cutro-Kelly, grew up in Albany County. A student from Ravena High School she stayed in the Capital-Saratoga region for her undergraduate education. In 2002, she told the Times Union that she'd love to be in the Olympics one day, and 20 years later that wish came true. At 37, Cutro-Kelly made history by becoming the oldest American judoka to compete in the Olympic games, she was also the first women from Team USA in the past 20 years to qualify in her category. A competitor in the postponed Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, she serendipitously made her Olympic debut in the country Judo was created. 

An advocate for deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes, Cutro-Kelly is 50% deaf in both ears. In 2022, she competed in the Deaflympics for the first time and emerged victorious as a gold-winning champion. 

Kathy Guadagnino

In an unexpected turn of events, professional golfer Kathy Guadagnino (then Kathy Baker) surprised everyone with her career-defining win in the 1985 Women's US Open with just a three-stroke lead over competitor Judy Clark. This was her very first title as a professional athlete, marking her as one of only 13 players of the Ladies Professional Golf Association to call the Open their first career victory. 

But the Albany-born athlete had been a history-maker years before the 1985 competition. A player for the University of Tulsa, Guadagnino made her mark in NCAA history, winning the inaugural Individual NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship title in 1982. She then helped lead her team to victory with the University winning both AIAW and NCAA national titles. But Guadagnino was not only the first to earn the Individual title, it was also her first title in her college career, meaning she exemplifies the idea of making sports history to a tee.