As we have just passed the halfway point of the semester, the excitement of KU sports is rippling stronger than ever across campus. There is the promise of many accomplishments and titles to be earned. Going into the craze, there is something every KU sports fan should know about this particular 2017-2018 academic year: it marks the 50th anniversary of women’s sports at KU.
This Golden Age of female athletics should be not be celebrated merely because it has reached 50 years, but for the fact that it gave women the chance to compete in recreational and competitive sports, especially when it wasn’t always the norm. It also added to KU’s rich history and is one of the reasons I’m proud to be a Jayhawk.
So, a little backstory on how women’s sports came to exist on KU’s campus… Women were officially able to compete in sports in 1968. An iconic woman, Marlene Mawson, was put in charge of starting this program with only a $2,000 budget. With this small budget, women’s sports at KU were born and they started off with six sports and has since expanded to 10 sports.
The original six sports were softball, basketball, volleyball, field hockey, gymnastics, and swimming.
Another turning point for KU women’s athletes was in 1974, when the department received its first large budget of $120,000. As a result, it was this year where the coaches of the female teams were finally paid for their hard work.
From then on, the women’s program only grew to be bigger and better, offering scholarships for their athletes and recruiting more competitive, strong, and passionate players.
Nowadays, I am constantly hearing how well women’s sports are doing. They have been nothing short of excellent. Women’s sports have advanced so far in only 50 years. They have achieved many accomplishments and earned themselves quite a few titles.
Some examples of their titles include multiple Big 8 tournament championships and two Big 12 titles in basketball. They also earned titles for indoor and outdoor track and field, and recently volleyball in 2016.
I look forward to see how far they’ll go in another 50 years!
While the length of their sports program does not compare to that of their male counterparts, women’s teams have equally continued to uphold the traditions, values, and expectations of Kansas athletics.
For instance, a few weeks back, I was listening in on the KU women’s volleyball game against Iowa State. It was a home game and little did I know how intense and iconic this game would end up being.
This particular game was the first one once since September 13th, 2013, that the KU volleyball team made a major comeback after a two set deficit. The women had lost the first two sets against Iowa State and it seemed like hope was lost. The Jayhawks were in danger of being swept in three sets, but they didn’t give up, they persisted and played even stronger.
These ladies ended up winning the third set and then winning the fourth, leading the game into its fifth and final set. The crowd was fired up and on their feet, intently watching as this intense match played itself out.
Without disappointment, KU ended up winning the set and the match, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
This game is just one example of many where females athletes have worked hard and played hard in their respective sports.
That recent example of KU women’s athletics success leads us to our next Jayhawk, who garners individual accomplishments.
Junior Sharon Lokedi was recently named Big 12 Female Runner of the Week. This isn’t the only accomplishment that Lokedi has; she is also a Big 12 Champion and an All-American for cross country. Twice. It’s difficult to imagine that 50 years ago, track wasn’t even part of women’s athletics, and now Lokedi has made Kansas a national contender.
As I’ve said before, reaching its 50th year anniversary is a great and prestigious feat for KU women’s sports. They have exceeded beyond expectations and aim for nothing but success.
Continue to make us proud, ladies.
Article by Angel Tran
featured image courtesy of Kansas Athletics