50 years of Title IX….Should have been 100

Submitted by Kimbrook Tennal

I didn’t realize when I was in school what a terrible omission it was to not allow girls to play sports in high school. The girls in school at the time didn’t talk about being cheated by not being allowed to play sports. It is just the way it was back then. After I graduated from college and got my first teaching and coaching job in Grinnell, Kan., in 1976, girls’ junior high basketball went with my other duties. I didn’t even get paid to coach those girls, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my coaching career. I say that because I found out what I never knew in high school about girls. Girls are as competitive as boys!

Those junior high girls wanted to win. They wanted to please me. They weren’t afraid of hard work. Many people say that you can’t coach girls the same way you coach boys, but I have never found that to be true at all. I worked those little junior high girls’ tails off and they never complained. We went undefeated back-to-back years, and not because I was a great basketball coach. We went undefeated because they didn’t want to lose, and weren’t afraid to do the work it took to be winners.

I loved that group of girls. They taught me something I never learned in high school or college. They taught me that girls’ sports matter. Everybody takes girls’ sports for granted nowadays because Title IX was passed fifty years ago. But just think how different life might have been for the girls who never got the chance to play sports if there had always been a Title IX like there should have been.

Most of the articles I have written have been about male athletes and coaches. This article will be solely about Bluejay girl athletes…some of the best of the best. Sabetha went to the state volleyball and basketball tournaments in only the second year of state tournament play for girls. They lost in the first round in both tournaments with the flu bug hitting Coach Connie Fisher’s team during the state basketball tournament. Mary Beth Aue was one of the stars for the Bluejays back then. Others on that pioneer team for Sabetha girls’ basketball included the following: Lori Rokey, Janis Cooper, Carolyn Spring, Jana Koch, Mary Kirk, Linda Bingman, Carol Strahm, Dianna Oberst, Donna Fenton, Ann Krebs and Denise Hartter.

Six years later, Sabetha made it back to the state basketball tournament under head coach Jim Baldridge. Before Coach Baldridge became head coach, Sabetha’s girls had the longest losing streak in the state at over 50 consecutive losses. At first, Baldridge was hesitant to take on the head girls’ position. He asked his wife what he should do if the girls cried. The team made it to state under Coach Baldridge, but suffered a three-point loss to Hillsboro the eventual third place team. Elizabeth Renyer was Sabetha’s star player that season.

I didn’t start coaching high school girls’ basketball until 1985. Sabetha’s star player then was Tracy Matson. She was five feet 10 inches tall and a really good player. She is still on Sabetha’s list of top scorers in school history with 662 points. In those days, freshman were not allowed to play varsity at most schools or she would have scored even more points in her career. She was also a top notch volleyball hitter.

Sabetha’s all time leading scorer in girls’ basketball was Amy Renyer. She scored 1,429 points in high school. Renyer went to Washburn to play basketball in college. As an Ichabod, she scored over 1,300 points and pulled down over 900 rebounds. She was inducted into Washburn’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003 and is now the head girls’ basketball coach at Marysville High School. 

Amy Scoby scored 1,353 points for Sabetha before taking her game to Fort Hays State University. She is still on their top ten list for assists in her career. She also hit seven treys in one game, which is tied for third most by a Tiger.

Sabetha has had seven different girls score over 1,000 points in their careers as a Bluejay. In descending order, after Scoby were the following: Alexis McAfee 1,290, Kelly Priest 1,281, Jenna Matson 1,106 Cindy Renyer 1,045 and Kristen Orton 1,009.

Jenna Matson had perhaps the most illustrious college career. She scored over 2,400 points for Mid-America Nazarene College and was twice named an All-American. A player who didn’t put up big numbers in high school for Sabetha, but played with Jenna when they won the 3A State Championship in 2004 was my niece, Leisha Tennal. Leisha went to Peru State College after high school where she scored 1,354 points, Sixth All-Time for the Bobcats.

Kelly Priest is another Sabetha girl who went on to play for Fort Hays. She is listed on their records board in four or five categories, two of which make her a bit infamous. She was a strong physical player who is listed as fouling out six times in her career. She is also on the record board for having fouled 105 times, sixth most by a Tiger. She scored almost 1,200 points in her career at Hays.

Another Sabetha girl who played for Washburn University was Alexis McAfee. She finished her college career for the Ichabods with 919 points. Most of the Sabetha athletes mentioned in this article were also great volleyball players. One of those who really made it tough on my Lady Raider team back in the day was Kristen Orton. She could really pound a volleyball, as could Tracy Matson. Sabetha has had other great female athletes over the years. I wrote about Kay Thompson and her six school records in track. Kay could also really smack a volleyball.

I wonder who the girl athletes would have been if girls had been allowed to play sports when I was in high school. Who would have gone on and played in college? It just wasn’t fair for the girls back in the day. Just think how many lives would have probably been totally different, if the girls us old timers went to high school with had the opportunity to play sports. I loved coaching girls’ sports over my career. I sure am glad men finally got smart and let the girls play! It was just about 50 years late though.

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