For those of you not acquainted with Ms. IX, let me take a moment to explain that Title IX is the federal government regulation that mandates equity for women in college and university sports programming. (St. Thomas has 11 men’s and 11 women’s varsity teams.)
Our good friend Title IX turned 40 this year.
And do we have a present for her – the NCAA Division III championship volleyball team. Now, I realize that schools in Division III give her champions every year, but our champions are something special.
Recently, I saw a video clip of the St. Thomas team; its spirit and sense of family shone through. Ali Wahlin, international studies major, may have best expressed the closeness of the team when she said, “Any time I need anything, I count on my teammates.” Also shining was Coach Thanh Pham, whose low-key, understated manner inspired the team more than any rah-rah stereotype could have.
I also learned what a “dig” is – the MIAC career record now held by Kaiti Wachter, a legal studies in business major.
But the academic in me probably resonates most with Kia Johnson – biology major, UST Dease scholar, one of nine Minnesota winners of a Goldwater Scholarship and one of 15 recipients nationwide of the UNCF/Merck Science Research Scholarship. For two out of the last three years, Kia has possessed the highest grade point average of all the volleyball players in the national playoffs. Kia talks about the balance that volleyball gives to her academic life.
The late Professor Patricia Howe, Ph.D. in history and alternate for the U.S. Olympic swimming team, always told me that women’s sports complement women’s academic performance. Klutzes like me tended to doubt that claim. Now I believe her.