News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 22, 2006

Pete Chalos: Women’s basketball flourishing in the Valley


This month, the ISU women’s basketball team recorded its 18th straight win. The victory also marked the milestone 100th career win for ISU women’s head coach Jim Wiedie. He and Edith Godleski are the only two women’s basketball coaches to achieve that mark in ISU history. Local golf enthusiasts may remember Edith from her impressive record in local golf tournaments.

The backbone of the ISU team consists of five seniors responsible for leading their team to 80 of those 100 wins. Erin Hendrickson, Ashley Clark, Lisa Verhoff, Kristen Weddle (THS graduate) and Melanie Boeglin (THS graduate) have dominated their competition while racking up an impressive record for the school and for themselves.

This year, senior guard Boeglin broke school records and Missouri Valley Conference records. She is currently an All-American candidate. Local sports afficionados may remember Melanie from the 2002 Terre Haute South Vigo High School state championship team.

In recent years, there has been a tremendous amount of growth and success in women’s sports within the Wabash Valley. Some recent local standouts in high school basketball include all-stars Dorcas Lawson, Courtney Risinger, Candace Dark (now playing for Ohio State) and Brigett Branson (now playing for Indiana University).

One of the greatest players from the area in recent years has been Stephanie White of Seeger Memorial High School (1995 Miss Basketball, National Player of the Year). White went on to play for Purdue and the WNBA. She is now assistant coach at the University of Toledo. Another young star on the rise to keep your eye on is Brittany Rayburn of Attica.

Women’s basketball has surged in popularity since the advent of the WNBA in 1996. Olympic gold also stimulated interest and increased participation. Our schools have built state of the art facilities for women’s sports equal to the facilities provided for men’s sports. We’ve come a long way since women were limited to playing field hockey out in the GAA (Girls Athletic Association) parking lot down at Gerstmeyer and Wiley high schools back in the 1940s and 1950s.

This past Friday evening, I took a trip down to The Boys and Girls Club on North Third Street to watch my granddaughter Sydney play basketball. I sat with my daughter Kathy Miller, a teacher at Otter Creek Middle School, currently running for a seat on the county council in the Third District, and watched her daughter Sydney run up and down the court. There is no greater joy than to watch your granddaughter participating and having the time of her life with her friends. Her little brother Zach even shared his popcorn with me. We had a great time.

Looking around the gym, I took note that the facilities these 5- and 6-year-old children were playing in are superior to the facilities that Terre Haute and Vigo County high schools had back in the 1950s when I was coaching basketball. I’m speaking about the boys’ teams. The girls were playing in the parking lot, if at all.

These days, all of our children and grandchildren have facilities, equipment, coaching staffs, sponsors and support that we would have never dreamed of back then. It’s a great time to be a young person. It’s a great time to be a young lady. There are more opportunities for women in our society today than at any point in our history. Make sure you take advantage of these opportunities and get involved.

Pete Chalos, a longtime teacher, coach and public servant in Vigo County, was mayor of Terre Haute for 16 years. Send e-mail to pchalos@netscape.com.