1970-1979: ERA OF CRISES

Female athletes began to establish traditions

By BLAKE SEBRING, of The News-Sentinel

It's almost incomprehensible now, but before 1972, women's athletics rarely was written about in newspapers, usually not played before crowds or on college campuses, and was seen on television only during infrequent tennis matches or the Olympics.

But in 1972, Congress passed Title IX, which said that any institution that received public tax money could not discriminate on the basis of gender. That meant schools had to spend equally on female and male athletics.

Before then, boys received almost all of the money, while girls played with broken equipment at odd hours using poor facilities.

But as soon as Title IX became law, northeast Indiana girls high school teams took the lead in establishing tradition throughout the state. Warsaw won the first Indiana High School Athletic Association girls state basketball title in 1976, and won again in 1978.

"We very rarely got to practice in the main gymnasium and never in prime times," Warsaw coach Janice Soyez said in 1994. "We kind of got shoved around. ... The kids had a class with the boys basketball coach, Ike Tallman, and they would ask him when they could practice after school. He said something like, 'The day you fill up the gym, we'll move over.' After we won the state championship, we had a pep session at 3 a.m. and the gym was full. The kids all gave a speech and one of them said, 'Move over, we're here to stay.' "

Snider played for the state volleyball title in 1973 and Concordia Lutheran in 1976. North Side finished second for the state gymnastics title in 1977. In track, northeast Indiana high schools dominated as Wawasee won the state title in 1976, Wayne in 1979, South Side in 1980 and Northrop in 1981.

Lee Ann Berning, later Reed, won the first of her record nine city tennis tournament titles in 1972. In 1976, Reed's Valparaiso University women's tennis team qualified for the NCAA Division II national tournament.

While girls were gaining a foothold in the 1970s, boys were also having success. Northrop won Fort Wayne's last boys state basketball title in 1974. The Bruins capped their 28-1 run with a 59-56 victory over Jeffersonville in the 1974 state championship game, as Walter Jordan scored 18 points in the finale. "All year our team developed a special love for each other," Jordan said, recalling that magical season.

Fort Wayne also started to develop into a football city during the '70s. Garrett won the Class A title in 1975, while Bishop Dwenger finished second in Class AAA in 1979.

Wayne won the boys state track title in 1973, and Snider shared the title with Gary West Side in 1974.

Fort Wayne has sent seven people to compete in the Olympics, but only Matt Vogel in 1976 has won two gold medals. The Snider High school graduate, a swimmer, won the 100-meter butterfly and was part of the 800-meter medley relay team that won a gold medal in the Montreal Olympics.

In professional sports, the Fort Wayne Komets won their third Turner Cup as champions of the International Hockey League in 1973. Pro basketball tried again and failed, with the Fort Wayne Hoosiers of the International Basketball Association lasting only one season.

Fort Wayne's Bill Kratzert continued his PGA Tour success by winning the Greater Hartford Open in 1977, and the Fort Wayne Scouts and Huggie Bears tried to break into the pro sports scene in slow-pitch softball in 1978.

Sources: "Fort Wayne Sports Yesterday and Today," by Michael Hawfield (1994); and "Twentieth-Century History of Fort Wayne," by John Ankenbruck (1976).

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