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Title IX, Allegany County, Part II

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Title IX, Allegany County, Part II

Title IX ‘made all the difference in the world’
Two championship coaches recall how the 1972 legislation changed girls sports

CUMBERLAND — There are lasting, vivid images of every sports season.

Who will soon forget the joy on the faces of state champions, like the Mountain Ridge softball team?

Or the powerhouse Westmar girls basketball teams of the early 1990s, the dominating Mount Savage volleyball teams of the 1970s and 80s, the dynamic duo of Tracy Little and Cassie Murray at Allegany, and scoring machines like Southern’s Jenny Hillen in basketball, and Northern’s Adria Graham in soccer? Or the incredible performances of Frankfort’s Bria Welker and Katie Jan at this year’s state track and field meet?

Who doesn’t still remember the celebration and craziness that came after Southern’s Justine Pagenhardt’s dramatic halfcourt shot at the buzzer that beat Poolesville 59-57 in the region championship game a few years ago? Actually, it was 2004 — eight years ago — but it doesn’t seem that long. Just ask Don Stemple.

Those memories merely scratch the surface. But there was a time, and not too long ago, either, when little of that was possible.

Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 put an end to those days. Its passage, 40 years ago, ushered in a new era for women’s sports, which, using Western Maryland as a yardstick, shows no signs of slowing.

Forty years ago, Richard Nixon was president, gasoline was 35 cents a gallon, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were the defending World Series champions.

And local girls coaches, like Joanne Nickel and Joan Fitzpatrick, were building high school athletic programs from scratch.

Flintstone had no girls sports teams when Nickel arrived. She began basketball, volleyball and track and field teams, and coached them during her 14 years there.

There were no sports teams for girls at Mount Savage when Fitzpatrick arrived in 1961. She began volleyball, basketball and track teams, then, 11 years later, did the same thing when moving to Valley, and even started a competitive gymnastics team at the Lonaconing school.

Interest and participation were never problems.

“We always had enough players. We never had to worry about that. We always had varsity and jayvee teams,’’ Fitzpatrick said.

“We carried 40 kids on the volleyball team one year at Flintstone," Nickel recalled.

The only thing that seemed lacking were opportunities.

“One of the things I was upset over was the number of games,” Nickel said. “I think we had an eight-game season at one point. Gradually, we moved up to 10 games, and then 12 games.”

But there were no playoffs or state tournaments.

“I remember at Mount Savage, I believe in 1970 or 1971, our basketball team was 15-0," Fitzpatrick said. “Debbie McKenzie, Vicki Lease, Donna Lashley, Ruth Lamp, Ann Gillis, Bonnie Emerick ... and they never got a chance to win a state championship because there was no such thing back then for girls teams.

“Title IX passed shortly after that, and then there were girls state tournaments. But I’m really sorry for that team. One of my biggest regrets is that they didn’t get that opportunity.”

Nickel remembered a number of her former players were in the same boat at Flintstone. One was Sharon Heavener.

“She was an outstanding player who could take on the guys and fake them right out of their shoes," Nickel said. “She was a fantastic shooter and once scored 54 points against Ridgeley.”

The 1960s and 1970s, after Title IX became law, were like night and day, both coaches agreed.

Fitzpatrick’s basketball teams at Valley used to have to practice after the boys varsity, boys junior varsity and men’s adult league team.

“The changes were gradual. Things didn’t happen overnight," she said. “I was hopeful and optimistic. We just had to take it year by year.”

Former Oldtown coach Annabelle Arnold, according to Nickel, was responsible for Allegany County girls coaches getting paid for the first time, requesting pay and citing Title IX.

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association began girls basketball state tournaments in 1974, and Nickel’s Mount Savage team won the Class C title in 1977. State volleyball tournaments began in 1975, and Mount Savage won one of the first ones in that sport, too, in 1979. The Indians also won volleyball state titles in 1982, 1983, and 1997, and were runners-up five times.

In a three-year run, Fitzpatrick’s Westmar basketball teams went 69-4, played in three straight state championship games, and won back-to-back titles in 1990 and 1991.

The more games, the more exposure. And the more exposure, the more opportunities and athletic scholarships to colleges.

Again, something that wasn’t available to many local girls in the pre-Title IX era.

“Title IX was very, very important. It made all the difference in the world," Nickel said.


Mike Mathews, Cumberland Times-News

(Photo Note: It was exactly one-hundred years ago, 1912, that the Beall High School girl's basketball team posed for this photograph by the McElfish Photographic Studio of Frostburg, Maryland. They were the "champs". It was another sixty years until the enactment of Title IX in 1972. Postcard from the collection of Angela and Albert Feldstein.)


Collection Location:
Allegany County

Allegany County (Md.)--Biography; Allegany County (Md.)--Women.

Allegany County, (Md.)

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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