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GIRL WON'T MAKE ENOUGH PRACTICES TO PLAY FOOTBALL FOR HIGH SCHOOL

Miranda DalPorto, the Niagara Catholic High School sophomore who wants to play football, will be allowed to practice with the all-boy junior varsity team, if she passes a physical later this month.

However, she won't be allowed to play in any games, according to the principal.

"She would only have 12 practices in by the last game," explained Patricia Menkiena. "That will not give her enough practices to get into the game."

"I'd love to see her out there," the principal added, "but we couldn't let that happen till everything was taken care of legally."

The New York State Education Department requires female athletes who wish to participate in male-dominated sports such as football or wrestling to pass a rigorous fitness test, an additional physical exam by a school district physician and a case review by a school committee, according to Sandra Scott, executive director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

Certain services -- the fitness physical, for example -- can be provided to private schools by public school districts, and Thursday the Niagara Falls City School District agreed to have Miranda examined by the district's physician.

"Going through the red tape to get her the physical caused the delay," contended Ms. Menkiena. "One week earlier, and she would have had enough practices to play in the last game."

The physical is set for Oct. 21, 15 days before the the final game Nov. 5 against St. Francis High School of Athol Springs. School requirements call for 17 practice sessions before a student athlete can take the field in a game.

Miranda, 15, meanwhile, is disappointed that she was shut out of the entire season.

"I really wanted to play, but at least I get to practice," Miranda said Friday, during a break in preparation for her school's homecoming dance.

"I can't wait to get hit," she said. "It looks like fun falling on the ground."

The date on which Miranda requested permission to play football remains a point of contention between the school and her mother.

"They were still trying to recruit boys when Miranda told them she wanted to play, the first week of school," said Jan Seel, Miranda's mother. "She will miss competing by just one practice."

"She joined the team too late in the season," countered Ms. Menkiena, school principal. "She definitely did not come in the first week of school."

Miranda's petition to play football was a first for Niagara Catholic, according to Ms. Menkiena, but Miranda will not be the first area high school girl to play football.

At Kenmore West High School, sophomore Kristi Dukuff, 15, has been a member of the junior varsity football team since August, although she has yet to play in a game.

"She attended weight training all winter," said Jerry Tutwiler, head coach of Kenmore's football program. "I don't have a problem with a girl coming out, if she can pass the physical and do what we want her to do. The
boys have accepted her as part of the team, but it's definitely a problem with dressing."

A women's restroom across the hall from the locker room is the remedy in Kristi's case, he added.

Kristi, a cornerback and wide receiver, "wants to be the first female to win a football scholarship," said her mother, Sharon Dukuff.

"I didn't have a problem at all with the school," Mrs. Dukuff said. "All the cheerleaders want her to ride with them, but she won't. She rides with the team. In the beginning, she was sore but she said she has to be tough."

Tutwiler, referring to Miranda's attempt to play football at Niagara Catholic, said he would not allow any new athletes on his football squads at such a late date in the season.

"It's not fair to the other kids who have put in all the preseason work, since the middle of August," he said. "As a coach, I would fight it not because she's a girl but because it's just not fair."

Friday night, Miranda attended the homecoming dance with her boyfriend, who she said supports her effort.

"At first he didn't want me to play because he didn't want me to get tackled by all the other guys, but then he gave me a jersey," she said.

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