By Michael C. Jones
Tacoma native Doris Brown Heritage is the only woman to win the world cross country championships five years in a row, beginning in 1967. She broke U.S. records at distances of 440 yards, 880 yards and 1,500 meters, and world records at 3,000 meters and two miles. She won the Vancouver International Marathon in 1976 and finished second that year in the New York Marathon. She was only the second woman inducted into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame for her decades of coaching at Seattle Pacific University and is a member of the National Distance Running Hall of Fame.
Gretchen Fraser was the first American, male or female, to win an Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing. A Tacoma native, Fraser won gold in the women’s slalom at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St Moritz, Switzerland. She also won silver in the women’s combined. She earned induction in to the National Ski Hall of Fame as well as the halls of fame of Washington Sports and the University of Puget Sound.
Though born in Santa Clara, California, Michelle Akers was a three-time All-America soccer player for Shorecrest High School. She would go on to lead the U.S. Women’s National Team to the 1999 World Cup title. She was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame and shared the title of FIFA Female Player of the Century.
Bellevue’s Janet Hopps Adkisson was the top player on the school’s tennis team from 1954 to 1956. Make that, the men’s tennis team.
She twice reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in the singles side, and in mixed doubles with Bob Mark she made the finals of the 1959 U.S. Championships (now known as the U.S. Open). With recently departed legendary tennis broadcaster Bud Collins as her partner, she won the mixed doubles title at the 1961 U.S. Indoor Championships to go along with her singles title the same year. She is in the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame and the ITA Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame.
Miesha Tate, born in Tacoma, won a state wrestling championship in 2005 during her senior year at Franklin Pierce High School. Two years later she began her MMA career, winning her first championship as a bantamweight in 2009. She famously won the UFC’s Women’s Bantamweight title on March 5, 2016 with the technical submission of Holly Holms, though Tate lost the belt three months later in her first defense.