Local coaches preach vigilance for athletes working out alone

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW)-- With the increase of deadly incidents involving solo female athletes, local Wausau schools are starting to talk to their athletes about safety measure they should be taking.

The killings of three women across the country who were attacked while they were practicing solo sports like running, is raising alarms about how women can defend themselves. Also why they have to be ready to fight off attackers in the first place.

Two college students were recently killed while golfing and running in Iowa, a third woman was stabbed in Washington, D.C. while jogging.

The death of Mollie Tibbets last month in Iowa prompted an outpouring from other runners, especially on social media. Hundreds of women described being harassed and followed, and vowed to keep running as a show of defiance.

High school coaches around the area are starting to enforce safety, especially in solo sports. Even local runners are now starting to reach out to other runners to form running duos or groups.

Local coaches are teaching their players to be vigilant during workouts, especially if they're alone.

"We're in a day and age where you have that worry because you don't know what's going to happen," said D.C. Everest physical education teacher and track coach David Wanta.

"We teach our runners to be defensive runners, to make sure we're always aware when we're running. Also run side by side, run with a partner," said D.C. Everest cross country coach Allisha Blanchette.

"I always tell them, go in groups. Going by yourself sometimes can make you a target, if you go with two or three people there's strength in numbers," said Wanta.

Coaches at D.C. Everest also teach their athletes preventative options for when they run.

"There are things that you can do for yourself, you can vary your runs, you can vary your environment, and you can vary your route," Blanchette added.

For Wausau community members that don't have access to resources like D.C. Everest, businesses like marathon endurance have programs to help runners find a partner.

"We have a board that has 3x5 cards that you're able to write your name, contact information, and mileage or pace. Stick it on the board looking for another running buddy," said Marathon Endurance owner and D.C. Everest track coach Abby Ruppel.

Wausau coaches are doing their best to minimize any possible incidents, even if there is a low chance of it happening.

"If we look at the number of people who are active vs. the tragic events. Thankfully they are very small, but we still need to be mindful that those things can occur and we need to be prepared," said D.C. Everest Physical Education teacher Jo Bailey.

"You just can't assume that it won't happen to you even if it hasn't happened so far, even if you're an experienced athlete. Being aware of your surrounding and knowing what will happen. It’s not necessarily your fault but you can't assume that it won't happen," added Ruppel.

For athletes who see the attacks and are worried, coaches say to still have confidence and be aware.

"I would say confidence, knowing if you want to pursue something, be confident enough to find a way to do it. Don't give up on your sport because of fear," Ruppel said.