Title IX at 50: Mother, daughter represent changes brought since 1972 – IndyStar

Title IX at 50: Mother, daughter represent changes brought since 1972  IndyStar

Cheryl Treworgy did not intend to start a movement. She wanted to move.

“We were just listening to our hearts and minds and doing what we felt we wanted to do,” she said.

As much as any mother and daughter could, Cheryl Treworgy and Shalane Flanagan represent changes Title IX brought over 50 years.

The mother was once banned from North Central High School’s track, and a coach was told he was wasting time on her. She later ran to a marathon world record. The daughter became celebrated as the first American woman in 40 years to win the New York City Marathon.

Treworgy was treated as if she were an oddity. Flanagan was, and is, mainstream.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been just that one generation removed,” Treworgy said. “That’s the part that’s pretty amazing.”

Treworgy is among pioneers who benefited from sports without benefit of the law.

As 16-year-old Cheryl Pedlow, she was concerned about her appearance. Her body was changing, and she said she wanted to lose weight. She read an article by Oregon coach Bill Bowerman about a jogging craze in Australia, and she decided it was something she could do.

“It didn’t take a team. It didn’t take a location,” she said. “All it took was motivation to get out.”

She said she envied a classmate, Maddie Ellis, a swimmer who nearly made an Olympic team. Ellis’ sister, Kathy, won four swimming medals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

“Maddie had the body I wanted,” the runner said. “I thought she was this Greek goddess.”

Doyel:A decade after Title IX, she had to play basketball for the boys – and she started

Debate over a woman’s appearance persists to this day. To readers in the 2020s, news reports from the 1960s are offensive or comical. Treworgy said her daughter “kind of rolls her eyes” about what was once written about her mother.

“Everything was about her looks, not about her athletic prowess or achievements,” Flanagan told ESPN.com.

The Indianapolis News published a photo of Cheryl Pedlow posing on the start line in a majorette uniform.

Then there was this report by Sports Illustrated from the 1965 AAU cross-country nationals:

There are other pretty little dedicated things, like Cheryl Pedlow. Cheryl is from Indianapolis, is 18, honey-blonde, blue-eyed and has never yet been mistaken for a boy.

And his from the Los Angeles Times:

Cheryl Bridges is pretty enough to be a model or an airline stewardess, or an actress. But she isn’t.

The long-tressed blonde with the fresh-faced good looks and lithe physique – 5-8, 115 pounds, 35-25-34 – is a physical education teacher . . . and distance runner extraordinary.

More:She started jogging a mile at 32. She will run her final Mini-Marathon Saturday at 80.

Treworgy said such descriptions were not unusual. She was not offended. Nor, she said, did she endure some of the opposition peers did.

“That really didn’t happen to me,” she said. “Maybe because I was always accompanied by a coach.”

There had been women’s track and field at the Olympic Games since 1928. And Treworgy was inspired by Madeline Manning, who set an Olympic record of 2:00.92 in winning gold in the 800 meters at Mexico City in 1968. At the time, 800 meters was the longest Olympic distance for women.

Treworgy, in 1966, became the first woman awarded an athletic scholarship by a public university. Eleanor Forsythe St. John, who ran the physical education department at Indiana State, arranged for the scholarship.

Under her married name, Cheryl Bridges, she finished fourth in the cross-country World Championships at Clydebank, Scotland, in March 1969. Teammates Doris Brown and Maureen Dickson went 1-2, and the United States won the team trophy 23-35 over second-place New Zealand.

The trophy “weighed a ton,” the Indianapolis runner recalled.

Before the NCAA or AIAW, the governing body for women’s collegiate sports was the Division of Girls and Women’s Sports (DGWS). Cheryl Bridges led Indiana State to a tie for second at the 1969 DGWS national meet. She won the 880-yard run in 2:19.4 and mile in 5:15.1.

“When you see what the kids are doing now, I feel almost embarrassed by the times I ran. They are so modest,” she said.

However, the same could be stated about any performances from any timed sport in any era. Big things come from small steps.

And Cheryl Bridges became a world record-holder on Dec. 5, 1971, as the first woman to run a marathon in less than 2 hours, 50 minutes.

Of the North Central coach who once said she was a waste of time, she said:

“Once I set that world record, I wanted to go back and say, ‘Hi.’ “

 Her time of 2:49:40 broke the previous record, set by American Elizabeth Bonner, on Sept. 19 of that year. Another American, Joan Benoit, went on to win the first women’s Olympic marathon at Los Angeles in 1984.

The world record has been lowered 31 times since 1971, most recently by Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei, to 2:14:04 at the 2019 Chicago Marathon.

Treworgy insisted she “wasn’t really that talented,” that few women were distance runners. She was driven to succeed anyway.

“You find your strength, and mine was my strength,” she said. “It wasn’t my speed.”

Her most distasteful experience came after she became a women’s sports administrator at Michigan State, placed in an office next to basketball coach Jud Heathcote. She said athletic director Joe Kearney asked her to “spy” on Nell Jackson, a hall-of-fame track coach and the Spartans’ first assistant athletic director for women.

Football coach Darryl Rogers told them not to approach any donors, Treworgy said. She said the atmosphere was toxic.

“It made me so sick at my stomach, I resigned,” she said.

In 1981, she and then-husband Steve Flanagan, also a runner, became parents to Shalane.  At Shalane’s  Marblehead, Mass., high school, the daughter participated in cross-country, track, soccer and swimming.

Shalane Flanagan was a college champion for North Carolina. It was symmetry in November 2002 when Flanagan ran to the NCAA cross-country title at Indiana State, where her mother had been a national champion decades before. Some of Treworgy’s classmates and teammates returned to Terre Haute for the occasion.

“She wanted this so badly. I wanted it so badly for her as well,” the mother said at the time.

Many modern athletes have not heard of Title IX or know little about it, Flanagan told IndyStar as a college runner. She would not have understood ramifications of the law if she hadn’t listened to her mother’s stories or researched a high school paper.

Flanagan retired from competitive running with a resume featuring a 2008 Olympic silver medal in the 10,000 meters (upgraded from bronze), four Olympic appearances, 18 U.S. championships and that 2017 NYC Marathon triumph.

She never stopped completely – she ran six marathons in six weeks last year – but transitioned into coaching for the Bowerman Track Club, based in Portland, Ore. She and her husband, Steven Edwards, adopted a son, Jack, two years ago. Flanagan also wrote a popular cookbook, Run Fast Eat Slow.

Treworgy’s post-running career included designing and selling sports bras, and 20 years as a photographer for running events across the country. She was inducted into North Central’s alumni hall of fame in 2018, and was invited back to the school a year later to address students. More recently, she has begun taking art classes.

“Athletics is part of the arts,” she said. “It is just as important as painting and music and sculpture. It’s all self-expression. All of the arts affect your mind, and your body.”

And, in her case, affect generations.

Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at david.woods@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.