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Women’s History Month Has Special Meaning to GCC Athletics

First published in the April 2 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

By Alex Leon
Special to the Glendale News-Press

The first individual to take the podium at the inaugural 2002 Glendale Community College Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony — Donna Mayhew — recalled throwing the javelin from the upper parking lot to the athletic field. That was before she qualified for a pair of Olympic Games in 1988 and 1992.
How about 2002 inductee Cathy Ferguson winning two gold medals in the 1964 Olympics as a swimmer while still in high school, attending GCC soon after and participating in intramural sports because she was seeking some normalcy in her life and just wanted to have fun?
Seminal events in 1972 and 2002 helped GCC women’s athletics get to where they are now in 2022, having just celebrated Women’s History Month. The passing of Title IX in 1972 paved the way for organized athletic teams to be a reality for girls and women at all levels in schools and other organizations, including GCC. The creation and first induction ceremony of the GCC Athletic Hall of Fame two decades ago was designed to honor athletes, coaches, teams and supporters of sports and all things Vaquero.
Starting in 2002 with the induction of Mayhew and Ferguson — Olympians in their own right, in addition to being Lady Vaqs — a deserving woman or women’s team has been honored as part of every class, 18 in all until the last ceremony in 2018 due to construction of the new gym facility and then the pandemic. It is without a doubt one of the highlights of every ceremony, their stories shared of not just success but perseverance in the early days of women’s sports on campus.
Female teachers leading physical education classes was one thing before the early 1970s but recruiting women to compete on intercollegiate teams after Title IX was passed put early GCC pioneers such as Virginia Manker Pierce and Blanche Donovan in the HOF in 2003 and 2006, respectively. Later it was women’s tennis coach and women’s athletic director Terry Coblentz (2013) and Dianne Spangler, the former cross-country and volleyball coach (2016), who took their rightful places of honor.
These former coaches as well as the athletes and teams they shepherded helped pave the way for the women’s athletic programs of today as they have grown to eight teams in 2022. Their athletes thrive on and off their fields of play, in and out of the classroom and in their chosen fields when they move on, where their competitive instincts make them prime candidates to succeed.
Each fall, winter and spring, in women’s soccer, volleyball, cross country, basketball, softball, beach volleyball, tennis and track and field, women wear the cardinal and gold of the Vaqueros, representing their school teams and themselves with no promise of accolades or acknowledgements but with plenty of purpose.
Before them, future Olympians and state champions have worn the uniforms they wear today as Lady Vaqueros, at first just T-shirts with masking tape with numbers scrawled on them back in 1972 but they were probably beyond proud to be playing organized sports at GCC and finally being taken seriously as competitors.
Fifty years and counting.

Alex Leon is sports information director at Glendale Community College.

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