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Lakeshore basketball team honors 'Mt. Rushmore' of women in college athletics

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the Saugatuck girls basketball team is carrying on the stories of Michigan women who were trailblazers in sports.

SAUGATUCK, Mich. — On a weekday evening at Saugatuck High School, the gym suddenly goes dark. Blue strobe lights and a spotlight are all that's left to illuminate the Trailblazers girls basketball team as they go through their starting lineup. The crowd goes crazy.

Team captains Erin Moerler, Haley Rivera, and Jennifer Schock are in their happy place.

"I can't imagine my life without being able to play the sports that I do, and the people that I get to play with and the families that I get to create," Moerler said.

But if not for a 37-word law passed 50 years ago known as Title IX, these girls might not be able to play sports in the way they do now. The law reads: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

"It really is the basis of everything that we were given as high school athletes," Moerler said.

The Saugatuck captains say they didn't know much about Title IX until just recently. But luckily, the Saugatuck Trailblazers have some trail blazers right in their hometown that serve as valuable resources.

"We live in the coolest town in America, really. Saugatuck is diverse and has so many great things to offer. People for the most part just think of it as a summer town. But we have a lot of really cool residents here," said girls head basketball coach Kevin Tringali.

"Over the past few years, Coach Austin, our volleyball coach, and myself, we've gotten to know so many legendary women. I've been affectionately calling them literally the Mount Rushmore of women in college athletics."

The pioneering women with ties to Saugatuck include:

  • Keri Becker
  • Gloria Becksford
  • Ruth Crowe
  • Julie Folliard
  • Christy Freese
  • Gail Goestenkors
  • Sue Guevara
  • Carol Hutchins
  • Karen Langeland
  • Carol Ross
  • Mary Stanbra
  • Annie VanDyke
  • Marcy Weston

Tringali came up with the idea to have his players talk to these pioneering women about their experiences.

"We had a couple of them come and watch our practice. They talked about how they didn't even have a place to practice, or even if they could form a team. It was just another reminder to be grateful for what you have, and to not take it for granted," said Schock, a junior at Saugatuck.

The high school players also conducted interviews which they say were eye-opening.

"Prior to speaking with these wonderful ladies, I didn't realize how serious of an issue it was," said Rivera, a senior at Saugatuck.

"I just didn't realize how much inequality there was and how much of a lack of opportunities there was for these main college sports, even in division one athletics."

On Friday, January 20, Saugatuck will celebrate Title IX during a boys and girls basketball doubleheader against Black River. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and the boys will play first. Between games, there will be a presentation honoring Saugatuck's trailblazing women athletes. And the girls team, which usually plays before the boys, will headline the night.

Coach Tringali and the captains of the team pointed to pay disparities at the professional level and disparities in the quality of facilities at the collegiate level as evidence that there is still work to be done when it comes to equality in sports.

"There's always room for more improvement. It's just a matter of who's going to push it to be there and how you're going to get there," Moerler said.

For now, Coach Tringali is grateful his players got the chance to speak with Saugatuck's sports legends, and that the team will play an important role in making sure the stories of those legends continue to be told.

"They were beyond excited to help pass the torch, so to speak, to our team. And that's our girls' opportunity to pay it forward to our younger ones," he said.

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