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Blount County Title IX Titans

Landmark legislation led to rise of countless area stars

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Former Maryville shortstop Bry Blanco is the first player ever recognizd as a high school All-American for softball in Blount County. Photo by Brandon Shinn

She could play the game like no one you’d ever seen.

As I watched her that freshman year, I marveled at how someone could be that good that young.

She had size. She had speed. She had balance.

You almost cheered when someone hit the ball to short, just to watch her throw.

Forty years ago, Bry Blanco wasn’t possible.

Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, the landmark legislation signed into law by President Nixon that began leveling the playing field for women and girls in sport.

Prior to June 23, 1972, there was no such thing as high school softball in Blount County.

There were no track or cross country teams for girls to speak of, no tennis teams, no swimming, no soccer, no bowling, no volleyball, no golf.

The only sport offered, basketball, came with little, if any, scholarship money if you continued at the college level. Funding for women’s sports in general at the next level was a disgrace. Small schools like Maryville College didn’t even offer varsity sports for women until the late 1970s.

Title IX didn’t fix everything. An athlete like the University of Georgia-bound Blanco is proof we’re making progress, though. The little girls who saw her play at Maryville High won’t forget her. They’ll want to be her.

They’ll practice harder because they know it’s possible. Regardless of the outcome, they’ll likely emerge confident, determined young women, which is, or should be, the purpose of women and girls in sport in the first place.

All because Bernice Sandler said enough is enough and decided to fight.

Did you know it had absolutely nothing to do with athletics?

Students of the law would do well to investigate President Lyndon Johnson’s role in the evolution of Title IX as well.

To honor the courage Sandler displayed to change so many things for those to follow, Blount Press Row took a look back and compiled our list of Blount County’s top 50 female athletes since the passage of Title IX.

We looked at high school, college and amateur success, along with the historical significance of their achievement.

We know we missed a lot of names, and we want you to help us identify them. To get the ball rolling, we ask you to visit our Forums, register (It’s free!) and tell us who would make your top 50. If nothing else, tell us who we missed.

When all the lists are in, Blount Press Row will publish a ballot to let you help us select a Blount County Title IX Top 25, one of them to be chosen Blount County’s Top Female Athlete of the Last 40 Years.

The athletes below are not ranked and reflect only the opinion of Blount Press Row. Please join us in recognizing 40 great years of sport.

Blount Press Row’s Top 50 Title IX Athletes

1, Dawn Marsh, Alcoa, basketball

2, Leah Onks, William Blount, basketball

3, Bethany Minser, Maryville, diving

4, Kate Minser, Maryville, track and field

5, Cait McMahan, Heritage, basketball

6, Angela Puleo, William Blount, basketball

7, Brittany Holifield, Alcoa, softball

8, Ellen Wortham, Maryville, track and field

9, Sarah Fekete, Maryville, softball

10, Gretchen Prugh, Maryville, softball

11, Leah Kelley, William Blount, softball

12, Bry Blanco, Maryville, softball

13, Danielle Sampley, William Blount, track and field

14, Ali Pasqua, Alcoa, soccer

15, Nikki Porter, Maryville, soccer

16, Melanie Holt, Maryville, volleyball

17, Erin McGinnis, Heritage, basketball

18, Sarah Roberts, Maryville, volleyball

19, Kara Murr, Heritage, softball

20, Rose Ballard, William Blount, basketball

21, Stephanie Johnson Thompson, Porter, basketball

22, Brittany Ensley, Heritage, bowling

23, Kara Crowe, Alcoa, bowling

24, Kelly Casteel, Maryville, basketball

25, Erica Tuck, William Blount, softball

26, Sue Thomas, Everett, basketball

27, Becca Beverly, William Blount, track and field

28, Madison Borden, William Blount, track and field

29, Olivia Reynolds, William Blount, track and field

30, Ellen Johnson, Alcoa, volleyball, basketball, softball, swimming

31, Emily Chesney, Maryville, soccer

32, Lisa Myers, William Blount, basketball

33, Jama Waters, Heritage, softball

34, Terri Hall, Everett, basketball

35, Cameron Russell, Maryville, swimming

36, Monica Heinrich, Alcoa, swimming

37, Kim Moore, Friendsville, basketball

38, Koral Stache, Alcoa, basketball

39, Sara Wilson, Heritage, basketball

40, Becky Clabough, Heritage, basketball

41, Mimsy Neese Fleming, Heritage, golf

42, Lori Cate, Maryville, golf

43, Kelly Drinka, Maryville, basketball

44, Lindy McGuire, Alcoa, golf

45, Holly Burns, Heritage, golf

46, Peyton Robinette, Maryville, tennis

47, Sarah Overholt/Kelly Keifer, Maryville, tennis

48, Andrea Plemons, Heritage, basketball

49, Emily Hughes, Maryville, diving

50, Whitney Black, Maryville, volleyball



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