Courtesy of Janet Pendergraph

In High Gear

 Janet Pendergraph is as comfortable on the racetrack as she is in the boardroom. After working for many years as a top executive in the transportation industry, she is now vice president of Performance by Design International (PBD) Inc., a company founded by her husband in Auburn, New York, that designs and builds race cars. In her spare time, she completed an M.B.A. through SU’s University College and attained professional rank as a race car driver. “I discovered I have the physical and mental ability to go fast,” Pendergraph says. “I love driving, I love competing, I love winning.”
      One of the perks of working at PBD is that Pendergraph has learned the technical elements of formula race cars—a real asset for any driver. That’s far outweighed, however, by the disadvantages of being a woman behind the wheel. “Women don’t have year-round sponsorship, so we must hold other jobs to make ends meet,” she says. “Men who have been racing all year have an unfair advantage.”
      Despite the little track-time she’s had, Pendergaph has been competitive from the start. She’s driven amateur races on tracks in New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Arizona, and Florida, typically finishing in the top 10. Her top finish as an amateur was at Firebird in Arizona, where she came in second. “I led the pack for the whole race and I could have held off a car on the last turn of the last lap to win,” she says. “But I was driving a customer’s GT Cobra Mustang and I didn’t want his car to sustain serious damage.”
     Pendergraph’s professional driving career took off in 1999, when she was one of 30 drivers chosen from a field of 400 to participate in the Women’s Global GT Series at Road Atlanta. After a tough race, she finished ninth.
      In addition to carrying out her executive duties and battling for the checkered flag, Pendergraph enjoys piloting her own bush plane, scuba diving, and coaching youth basketball. “It became clear to me very early on that women have to be twice as good and twice as fast,” she says. “That’s why when opportunities come along, I work hard to deliver the best results. I’m always in overdrive.”

—Christine Yackel

Ken Cedeno Photography  

Winning Attitude

Caroline Silby knows what it takes to be a world-class athlete. As a youngster, she earned spots on the U.S. national and international figure skating teams and participated in the 1984 Olympic trials. Now a sports psychologist in private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, Silby specializes in the unique problems of adolescent girls. “Competitive figure skating taught me how to win gracefully and recover from defeat,” Silby says. “Now I help female athletes learn the mental skills they’ll need to succeed.”
      Although she excelled in skating, Silby never intended to pursue a professional figure skating career. “I’d have ended up a Smurf in the Ice Capades,” she says, “so I knew it was time to go to college.” She completed a psychology degree at SU and earned a Ph.D. in sports psychology from the University of Virginia.
      Drawing upon her own experience, Silby helps young female athletes cope with performance anxiety, body image, sexual harassment, and eating disorders. She conducts motivational seminars and works with individual athletes at all levels of competition. She also wrote Games Girls Play: Understanding and Guiding Young Female Athletes (St. Martin’s Press), to help parents understand the special needs of their sports-loving daughters.
      Silby says it’s unfortunate that so many teenage girls lose interest in athletics due to low self-esteem, because female athletes tend to feel more empowered, do better in school, don’t do drugs, and are less sexually active. “We’re making good progress,” she says. “In a few years, I hope to see an explosion of female athletes participating at higher and higher levels.”

—Christine Yackel


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