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Field hockey players at practice with head coach Jean Friedel (far left) in 1977.
Courtesy: WMU

40 in 40 - Legacy Sports

Courtesy: Kristin Keirns, associate director of athletic media relations
Release: 07/31/2012
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Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, takes a look at 40 key moments/females in the history of women's athletics at Western Michigan University. Though the selection process, an effort was made to highlight a moment and player/coach from each of our current women's sports programs, as well pay respect to our women's legacy sports. A different feature will be released each of the 40 days, July 24 through Sept. 1.

Legacy Sports
Bowling 1964-77; Field Hockey 1960-82; Swimming & Diving 1923-24, 1968-82
Synchronized Swimming 1948-79;
Synchronized Ice Skating 1998-2002

In the seventh edition of the 40 in 40 series, pays tribute to the Legacy Sports: Bowling, Field Hockey, Swimming & Diving, Synchronized Swimming and Synchronized Ice Skating. Although no longer in existence, each of these programs are an important part of WMU's athletic history.

The founding of the first four mentioned were a direct result of the wheels of Title IX being set in motion, with new opportunities being created to make involvement in sports possible for female athletes.

The last listed, Synchronized Ice Skating, began in 1998 when interested students of WMU's club team petitioned the Athletic Board through Student Services for varsity status.

All five programs were dropped from intercollegiate athletics largely due to budgetary and facility reasons. Swimming & Diving and Synchronized Skating are still continued today at the club level, while bowling and field hockey have been offered as intramural sports through the Health and Physical Education Department.

Of these discontinued teams, Synchronized Swimming had the longest run, being carried from 1948-79. Known as the "Water Sprites," the program finished eighth at the national championship in 1977-78.

All four of the other programs also enjoyed their share of success. Bowling won the first Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) state championship in 1972, the same year Title IX went into effect.

Field hockey had a very rich tradition, winning multiple AIAW state championships, and produced United States National Team members Dee Dustin Cole and Marcia Karwas. The only head coach of the sport was Jean Friedel, who oversaw the program for all of its 22 years.

Swimming was the first of these sports to be offered, with records showing participation in the early 1920's. After a long hiatus, swimming (and later diving) resurfaced when Norma Stafford started the program up again in 1968.

Only carried on the varsity docket for a short term, Synchronized Skating is currently one of Western Michigan's most competitive club sports, winning a national championship in the early 2000's. The team practices in Lawson Ice Arena, also home of Bronco hockey.