South’s girls sports teams celebrate success as Title IX turns 40

By: Jon Malavolti | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 27, 2012

 Grosse Pointe South’s girls athletic teams had plenty to cheer about this past school year, as five squads won state titles and another handful came close.

Grosse Pointe South’s girls athletic teams had plenty to cheer about this past school year, as five squads won state titles and another handful came close.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

South success at a glance
Grosse Pointe South’s girls enjoyed a banner year, as several of the sports teams finished among the top in the state. Here’s a breakdown of some of those squads:
• Basketball — state runners-up
• Cross Country — state champs
• Field Hockey — state quarterfinalists
• Golf — state champs
• Ice Hockey — state champs
• Soccer — regional finalists
• Swimming and diving — fourth at state meet
• Tennis — state champs
• Track and field — state champs

As female athletics recently celebrated an important milestone, Grosse Pointe South’s girls recently celebrated an impressive banner year.

Title IX of the Equal Education Opportunities Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in education, was signed into law 40 years ago June 23. By that date this year, the high school sports season had just wrapped up, crowning the last of its state champions a week prior.

Many female Blue Devils athletes are more than familiar with the feeling of posing with a trophy or two.

The school’s girls teams won five state titles this past school year alone in cross country, track and field, golf, tennis and ice hockey.

South Athletic Director Jeremy Hawkins said the level of success was “pretty unparalleled,” and luckily, there’s more than enough room to showcase the girls’ accomplishments at the school.

“Fortunately, it’s a giant campus, so I think we’re going to be set,” he said. “It’s certainly a good thing to have when you’re wondering where we’re going to put these new banners.”

Girls track and field, and cross country coach Steve Zaranek has more than 30 years of experience coaching, and he said he has never seen anything like this before.

“It has been extraordinary,” Zaranek said. “We’ve had extraordinary success with girls athletics overall, and it’s been across the board. We’re just very fortunate to have at this period of time a series of classes so committed to the school and their various teams. It’s just has been wonderful to watch this all develop.”

Zaranek has watched it develop since Title IX was in its infancy.

“At that point in time, it was a challenge to be looked at in the same light as the boys teams,” he said. “It took, on everybody’s part — from athletic administrators to coaches to kids — a lot of work to slowly keep raising the bar and be accepted as complete equals. Little things like not being able to use weight room facilities … to what I’ve seen today is total equality.”

Today, Zaranek heads up one of the top running programs, boys or girls, in the state. His cross country and track teams both have won back-to-back state titles.

Many of South’s top and title-winning athletes compete on multiple teams.

“The range of athletic ability that many of these girls posses obviously extends to multiple sports,” the coach said. “That’s pretty rare. I think that’s a tribute to the girls and their families who are not attempting to specialize in just one thing. And that’s something these days you see more and more of. To me, that’s unfortunate.

“I love seeing girls in a variety of sports,” Zaranek continued. “It’s good for them to be able to handle different challenges, different levels of competitions in various sports. It’s going to help them in every thing that they do.”

While Title IX was originally intended to create fairness in overall education being offered to boys and girls, ensuring equality in athletics is what it has become most popular for. Yet the educational aspects of the success achieved by the athletic teams is not lost on the Blue Devils.

Hawkins elaborated on how excelling in “pressure-packed situations” in sports can be a “confidence builder” for all athletes.

“It’s one of those great things they can use to build off of down the road,” he said. “It’s a really cool thing in educational athletics, a great thing from our perspective. The life lessons — they’re going to be better off for having gone through this.”

One athlete who can specifically attest to this is recent graduate Caitlin Moore. A letter-winner in volleyball, basketball and track, Moore was named South’s best female athlete for the last school year and will be playing basketball at the prestigious University of Chicago in the fall.

“I don’t think I realize it as much now as I will later, but so far I think it’s helped a lot,” she said about her experiences with athletics. “Sometimes the downs of it all, the losing, helps even more sometimes. It’s made me a stronger person, mentally and setting goals and achieving them. That desire to do well will transfer over to my life outside of sports.”

That desire to succeed carried over from one team to another at South. After Moore’s basketball team lost by one point in the state final, she and some other hoops teammates became focused on winning a state title in track. Moore ended up being a key piece of the Blue Devils’ title-winning team.

“Every team I’ve been a part of has had big goals,” she said. “We weren’t satisfied with losing by one point. My goal all season was to get another track championship and end on the highest note possible.”

As for Title IX, Moore said she was “really appreciative of it.”

“My best friends are from sports teams I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” she said.

Despite the heartbreaking loss in the hoops final, Moore was thankful for the support the team got from the community.

“Girls basketball, not everyone thinks it’s the coolest thing ever,” she continued. “But as we went further in the tournament, reaching the Breslin Center, to have so many people in stands, and afterwards talking to me and congratulating us.”

Moore then recounted a story her grandfather told her when he was the athletic director at South.

“Some girls wanted a tennis team, and they were told they could try out for the boys team,” she said. “It’s weird to think others didn’t have opportunities like me. It makes me more grateful for it.”