Western’s first basketball team to qualify for the national tournament was the 1972-73 women’s team, coached by Lynda Goodrich. But getting to nationals depended on more than how women performed on the court. What they produced in the kitchen mattered a great deal, too.
Though Title IX had just passed, it would take years for scholarship and department money to materialize. So the team had to hold bake sales to help raise money for the trip to New York City, site of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national tournament.
Sherry Stripling, ‘75, B.A., journalism, was a member of that team and attending her second national championships that year. A school recordholder, she placed third in javelin at the 1973 AIAW Track and Field national championships and was named an All-American.
After successfully raising enough through bake sales and car washes, the team had a memorable trip to New York City, says Stripling. Physical Education professors Chappelle Arnett and Margaret Aitken, who had gotten her doctorate at Columbia University, came along as tour guides.
Stripling and her teammates reached the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Immaculata in Queens, New York.
“It was an amazing chance to expand our views, experience the reward of winning and to see that we weren’t alone,” Stripling says. “There were polished programs on the East Coast that took their women’s sports seriously, even if, in one case, they still made them wear skirts.”
Stripling says she didn’t play much, claiming she was valued more for her team write-ups for The Western Front student paper and for calling in scores to local papers. She was one of the first to earn a degree in journalism from Western.
“I remember calling our results into a newspaper and hearing the guy bark, ‘It’s some God-damned women’s team,’” Stripling wrote in an email. “They were on a Saturday night deadline, which I later learned turns us all into Godzilla, but playing sports taught me to take the blows and keep going.”
Stripling was hired in 1977 as the first woman reporter in The Seattle Times sports department and as one of the first women to cover the National Basketball Association when she covered the Seattle SuperSonics from 1979 to 1982. Most of her nearly three-decade career at The Seattle Times would go on to include writing features for the lifestyle section, considered one of the nation’s best, and as an award-winning travel writer.
“Western’s early faith in women’s sports was for me matched by its journalism program’s willingness to take chances,” Stripling says, crediting journalism advisor R.E. “Ted” Stannard for creating a sports specialty for her major. “These opportunities required a faith at Western that life for women was going to expand and that we needed to be prepared for when it did.”
Photo by Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times