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Women’s athletics celebrate 100 years

Women's athletics celebrated their 100 year anniversary on Saturday. Pictured here is the 1926 women's basketball team. Photo courtesy of MU Archives.

Kat Vasquez
Associate Sports Editor

On March 30th, Millersville Athletics celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics. The ceremony was held to celebrate and honor all past and present accomplishments of women’s sports and the contributions of Marge Trout. Speakers from the ceremony included an Alumni Ashley Moyer-Gleich (2010) and junior Madeline Stehly.

Moyer-Gleich reflected back on her years of being a basketball player for the Marauders. During her career, she won three PSAC East titles, as well as three NCAA Tournament appearances.  She has since risen to become the fourth female NBA official in modern history. However, she didn’t take full credit for her success. She was inspired by two strong women in her life: her mother Patti, and her former MU basketball coach,Mary Fleig. “My mother raised me as a little girl, dribbling a basketball in the kitchen wearing a dress to being a referee in the NBA today. Years later, I met the second most powerful women coach, Mary Flieg.” Flieg taught me two lessons in my life,” he explained.”The first lesson was how to… lead a with an attitude and with intense ferocity. Second, how to behave with fearlessness.” She later said that, “all those years in Millersville inspired me to where I am today, and I hope that with these lessons, I will inspire the next generation of Women Athletics,”

Madeline Stehly is a two year starter for MU Field Hockey team, and has earned her membership into the National Field Hockey Coaches Association ( NFHCA) All Academic Squad, and won the NFHCA Scholar of Distinction. As a native of Valley Center, California, she was often asked why would she leave California for Millersville, “Millersville was a place that drew me in with it’s values and overall culture. As a scared freshman, I was greeted by the field hockey coach, staff, and team, who made me feel at home. Although, there are things that I struggle with, especially [apperarent in] Freshman year:I know that they have my back. There’s that [feeling] all over campus and especially with women athletics.” She went on to say that she learned more from Women Athletics than anywhere else, and that,  “I still have more to discover”. She concluded by saying that, “We are more than a team, we are family.”

The remanding of the ceremony reflected on the last 100 years and how far Women Athletics has come. Over 100 years ago, there were battles within Millersville over the importance and perception of women’s athletics. However, a very famous advocate, Marge Trout, was fortunate enough to see the value and importance of women sports. Trout was forefront for Millersville in the remarkable growth in women’s athletics, and helped create opportunities for young athletes that weren’t available when she was growing up. When Trout first taught physical education in 1964 at MU, when there were only four sports for women. Trout wanted to change that,and she innovated and developed several intercollegiate sports like field hockey, women’s basketball, women’s soccer, etc. Barbara Walman, a 1973 Elwood J. Finley Award winner, said at the ceremony that, “Mrs. Trout always fought for us to have equality and fairness,” said Barb Waltman,. “In some ways,” said Waltman,  “we were treated pretty unfairly; but we got what we needed to compete. We never felt like we were second-class citizens because Trout was such an advocate for us. We started to get more uniforms and equipment and court time for practice.”

According to a pamphlet handed out at the event, history was being made when in 1972, Title IX was signed. Before the law was passed, fewer than 32,000 women were playing and competing in intercollegiate athletics. Trout innovation and Title IX jump started and leaded more women than ever before, to become athletics. Then nine years later, Trout became the Director of Women’s Athletics until her retirement in 2001.

However, every accomplishment came with a challenge. Donna Eshleman from the Millersville Athletics Department  reflected on those challenges when she had the privilege to work alongside with Trout as a student secretary while being a student athlete in 1978, “One of the several challenges I recall during my years include not being able to practice [during the summer]in Brooks Gym (where we would play our home basketball games)…as the building was kept locked during the summer; not having indoor practice space when it rained in the spring season  [softball had to use Byerly Gym, if it was available. It was a dangerously small space to use for softball practice!]; and lastly, when a new field was designed for softball behind Pucillo Gym, the infield was beautiful: however, the football team practiced in the outfield during our spring season! Needless to say, there was no grass growing in the outfield. With football practicing in our outfield, it challenged several of us to see how many times we could hit the ball into their practice during our batting practice time! ”

Since then, Trout heavily pushed Millersville into fixing these issues. Now, there has been new renovations of athletic facilities. Eshleman states that, “since my four years on campus (1978-1982) until now, there have been many changes for women’s intercollegiate sports teams at Millersville, [such as:] competition and practice field/court availability (i.e., playing on same fields/court as men’s teams); renovation of athletic facilities; [increases in the] number of competitions [played] during regular season, and [permission for]  pre-season practices and after season [practices,] resulting in an increased overall demand on student-athletes time.”

Since the signing of Title IX and Trout’s innovations, over 52 members of the Millersville University Athletics Hall of Fame are women and nearly 60 percent of it’s 450 student-athletes are women, according to Millersville Athletics’’s pamphlet. Kristin Kunzman, Assistant Coach for basketball ended the ceremony and spoke for Marge Trout, who couldn’t make it to the ceremony:  “We all have a very important role in the development of programs that exist today. There had been many memorable moments over 100 years and we are looking forward to 100 years more; May we continue to provide support the next generation young women that come to Millersville for education and want to participate in sports.”