In her four years playing women’s soccer at the University of Colorado, Kenzie Tillitt remembers one time a teammate made a negative comment about her being a lesbian. It happened before she ever played a game.
The summer before her freshman year, the team’s seven freshmen walked out of the locker room after learning their roommate for the year. The woman assigned as Tillitt’s roommate experienced mixed emotions.
The teammate said to Tillitt, “Kenzie you’re really awesome, but I just don’t like the gay part of you. So if you could not bring that around our dorm and don’t bring it around me that would be great.”
Tillitt felt shocked. She said that marked the first time since she started telling people about her sexuality as a high school sophomore in Carson City, Nevada, that someone she knew made a negative comment about her sexuality to her face.
“My first reaction was, ‘Man, I would love a different roommate. How did I get roomed with the one homophobic teammate?’,” Tillitt said.
Several teammates who heard the comment told Tillitt to spend as much time in their dorm rooms as she wanted. Tillitt appreciated it. She avoided being alone with her roommate as much as possible, and after one semester, her roommate left the team.
“I learned a lot from it,” Tillitt said. “It’s always those obstacles you face in life that you learn the biggest life lessons.”
When she arrived in Boulder, Colo., Tillitt never announced her sexuality to her team and instead chose to talk normally about her girlfriend when appropriate. She also felt her social media made her sexuality obvious, because in high school, she actively fought for LGBT progress. Tillitt says she started her high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and in May 2013, she testified before the Nevada State Legislature in support of a same-sex marriage amendment to the state constitution. Despite Carson City being what Tillitt calls a “Republican, cowboy, hick town,” Carson High School elected Tillitt as Prom Queen.
Tillitt said this article marks the first time she has talked to media about her sexuality, and according to Colorado’s Gender and Sexuality Center, Tillitt is the University of Colorado’s first publicly out female active athlete.
“I thought that there would be a lot more out athletes [at Colorado],” said Tillitt, the vice president of Colorado’s Athlete Ally. “I’m the token lesbian a lot of the time. It’s fine, I embrace it, I love it.”
Her first two seasons at Colorado, the team enjoyed success by reaching the NCAA tournament in 2013 and 2014. This year’s Buffaloes (6-3 overall) won their last four games with Tillitt playing as a reserve in two of those four wins.
Tillitt served as backup goalie her first two seasons, and she moved to defender last year and this year. The 5-foot-5 senior nearly scored her first career goal in her team’s 4-1 win against Iowa on Sept. 11, but her shot went off the post.
“It’s the absolute dream right now to get a college goal,” Tillitt said. “I can’t think of anything better at this point to cap off my career here.”
When her college soccer career ends later this semester, Tillitt says she will remember the teammates that embraced her and not the one that wanted her to keep “the gay part” away.
“The entire team was really supportive except for that one person,” Tillitt said. “I can’t complain about it at all.”
Names in bold are people that have announced publicly they identify as LGBT.
Sean Collins (Penn men’s track and field) said he decided to become a manager for the track and field team and will no longer compete. He added he is “happy to be taking on a new role.”
Kendall Covington (junior, Penn women’s volleyball) helped her team go 4-3 the last two weeks with wins against Bucknell, George Mason, Lafayette, and LaSalle. Covington recorded seven kills against Bucknell.
Tim Cox (senior, Yale men’s cross country) finished 35th to help his team win the Fordham Fiasco on Sept. 10, and he ran the 5-mile course in 27 minutes, 56.22 seconds to open the season. On Saturday, Cox ran a personal-record 8-kilometer time of 26:45 to finish 32nd in a triangular meet with Harvard and Princeton, which Princeton won and Yale took second.
Mason Darrow (senior, Princeton football) started at center in Saturday’s season-opening 35-31 win against Lafayette. Princeton scored five rushing touchdowns.
Nick Jessee (senior, St. Louis men’s swimming) finished 23rd on Saturday at the inaugural College Swimming Coaches Association Open Water National Championships. He completed the 5-kilometer swim in 1 hour, 9 minutes, 42.15 seconds.
Sonia Johnson (junior, DePaul women’s soccer) went 1-2 with the Blue Demons (2-4-2 overall) the last two weeks. Johnson did not play in the three games.
Ayrton Kasemets (Oakland men’s swimming) said he tore the labrum in his right shoulder, which required surgery. He said he is recovering “super well” and hopes to compete before the end of the fall semester.
Jake Leffew (sophomore, Yale men’s golf) did not compete in the fall’s first two tournaments, and Yale took third place in both tournaments.
EJ Proctor (junior, Duke women’s soccer) made three saves in No. 7-ranked Duke’s 3-2 win against No. 16 Boston College on Saturday in both teams’ ACC opener. Proctor started all nine games and made 18 saves this season for the Blue Devils (6-2-1 overall).
Cavender Salvadori (redshirt junior, William & Mary men’s cross country) finished fifth at Friday’s W&M Invitational, helping the Tribe to a team win. Salvadori completed the 6-kilometer course in 19:09.2.
Juan Varona (redshirt senior, Barton men’s volleyball) said he plans to resume playing men’s volleyball this year at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina. Varona practiced with Barton last year, but he did not play because he had to sit out after transferring within Conference Carolinas. He last played college volleyball at Erskine during the 2013-14 season.
James Finley (head coach, Seattle women’s volleyball) went 3-4 the last two weeks with wins over Florida Atlantic, Seton Hall, and Rutgers. The win against Rutgers marked the first-ever win for the Redhawks (7-6 overall) against a Big Ten team.
Jessica Smith (assistant coach, Kansas State women’s soccer) went 0-3 the last two weeks. The first-year Wildcats program (2-5-2 overall) hosted its first home game Friday, a 2-1 loss to Northern Iowa.
Noah Ratliff (sophomore, Mercyhurst men’s water polo) scored a goal in each of the Lakers’ (3-5 overall) two most recent matches, losses to St. Francis-Brooklyn and No. 14-ranked Brown.
Chloe Anderson (junior, UC Santa Cruz women’s volleyball) saw her team go 0-6 the last two weeks. Anderson’s only appearance was in the Sept. 14 loss to Pacific Union, and she was unsuccessful in her one kill attempt.
Ryan Beene (senior, Texas Lutheran men’s tennis) said he suffered a panic attack during the season-opening Doc Skogman Invitational, which led to his withdrawal. The invitational took place Sept. 9-10, and he had not resumed practicing as of Sunday.
Sam Johnson (freshman, Whittier men’s soccer) came off the bench to play in all four games as the Poets (2-4 overall) went 1-3 the last two weeks.
Michael Martin (sophomore, Wilson men’s soccer) saw the team go 2-2-1 the last two weeks. Martin, the team’s goalie last year, has not played goalie since the season opener. He played the field for 26 minutes total in Saturday’s loss and Sunday’s win.
Ben Meyer (senior, Clark men’s cross country) said he decided to take this year off from college to work in Washington, D.C., with City Year, an Americorp program. Meyer retains one year of college sports eligibility to use in 2017-18.
Taylor Reifert (sophomore, Lawrence men’s soccer) scored two goals, his first goals of the season, in his team’s 6-0 win at Edgewood on Sept. 14. Reifert started all five games for Lawrence (2-4 overall) during the last two weeks as the Vikings went 2-3.
Josh Thorne (sophomore, Mount Union men’s cross country) finished 10th on his team and 81st overall during Saturday’s Yellow Jacket Invitational, where Mount Union won the men’s team title. Thorne completed the 8-kilometer course in 28:04. Jason Hadley (sophomore, Mount Union men’s cross country) decided with the coach to rest instead of competing at the meet.
David Gilbert (senior, Lewis-Clark men’s cross country) finished 37th in 21:49.53 on Sept. 9 at the Carroll Early Bird Open, where his team finished sixth. He did not run at Friday’s Dellinger Invitational.
Upcoming televised competitions involving LGBT college athletes and coaches. (All times are Eastern.)
Saturday, Oct. 1
Mason Darrow, Princeton football at Columbia; New York, New York, Noon. (Fox College Sports)
Kenzie Tillitt can be reached by on Instagram @TenzieKillitt or by email Kenzie.Tillitt@colorado.edu