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Prep Sports Notebook: Former high school coach has reason to celebrate 50th anniversary of Title IX

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Jenny Mertle was a high school student in 1972 when the federal government passed Title IX legislation to create gender equity in sports. Three years later, she received a college athletic scholarship for women’s basketball that would not have been available without the ground breaking legislation.

That alone gives Mertle a reason to celebrate today’s 50th anniversary of Title IX, but the 64-year-old Taylor Mill resident doubts if the current generation of female athletes grasp the full meaning of the measure.

Jenny Mertle receives a bouquet of flowers during a retirement ceremony at Newport Central Catholic High School.

“I don’t think they even realize it or know much about it,” Mertle said. “It’s just been taken for granted, but I know we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are today if it wasn’t for Title IX.”

The legislation dramatically increased the number of women in high school and college athletics. According to a press release on the National Archives website, one in 27 played sports before Title IX and the ratio is now two in five.

Mertle played a role in that steady climb as a high school teacher and coach in Northern Kentucky for several decades.

She started her coaching career in 1979 at Our Lady of Providence Academy. After the all-girls school merged with Newport Catholic High School, she continued coaching girls sports there until 2009. For several years, she was in charge of the volleyball, girls basketball and softball programs all at the same time.

“I brought the whole female sports program to NC and it was always a struggle going up against the boys programs to make sure what we got was equal as far as uniforms and all that kind of stuff,” she recalled.

High schools were subject to Title IX audits. Mertle said that resulted in her getting a coaching salary that was equitable to what the boys coaches received. The legislation also opened up an opportunity for her to become a high school basketball official.

Mertle was a member of the 9th Region Basketball Officials Association for more than 30 years. To honor her service, the association created the Jenny Mertle Award that’s given to the top female official after each season.

A few weeks ago, Mertle retired as a Newport Central Catholic faculty member. She wasn’t a coach for the last 13 years, but she knows the impact Title IX had on her career.

“You wish you could go back and emphasize a few more things like the fact that Title IX enabled me to support girls sports and advocate for girls sports for all those years, not just for myself but for all my athletes,” she said.

Scoring leaders on girls basketball teams make college commitments

The leading scorers on three of the final four teams in the 9th Region girls basketball tournament last season have made their college commitments over the last few weeks.

Rylee Turner

The latest announcement came from recent Newport Central Catholic graduate Rylee Turner, who will be attending Thomas More University. Two players who will be entering their senior years have also accepted scholarship offers. Whitney Lind of Cooper is going to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and Abby Holtman of Ryle plans to continue her career at the University of Cincinnati.

Turner was the second leading scorer in Kentucky girls basketball last season with a 26.3 average and pulled down 11.5 rebounds per game for NewCath. After finishing her senior season with 2,083 career points, she was voted third-team all-state in a statewide coaches poll and earned a spot on the Kentucky All-Stars roster.

Lind averaged 16.7 points and 6.4 rebounds on the Cooper team that won its first 9th Region championship and made it to the semifinals of the state tournament. She was named to the state all-tournament team and voted second-team all-state in a statewide coaches poll.

Holtman made 75 3-point goals and averaged 15 points per game on Ryle’s region runner-up team last season. In three varsity seasons, she has scored 606 of her 1,095 points from behind the 3-point line. She is the fourth Ryle player in the last four years recruited by a Division I college team.

Highlands player among seniors on Kentucky All-Stars softball team

Highlands softball player Anna Greenwell will finish out her six-year varsity career next week playing on the Kentucky All-Stars team that will face the Tennessee All-Stars in a two-game series on Monday and Tuesday at Gallatin, Tenn.

Greenwell was named 9th Region Player of the Year by the Kentucky Softball Coaches Association and invited to the East-West All-Star Games last weekend. She was one of 14 seniors who played in those games chosen for the Kentucky All-Stars team.

In her season season, Greenwell was the staring shortstop and leading hitter on the Highlands team that won its first 9th Region championship since 2016. She finished with a team-high .467 batting average and also led the Bluebirds in runs scored (49), runs batted in (45), triples (7) and home runs (5).

Greenwell was named most valuable player in the 9th Region tournament. In the championship game, she had two of her team’s six hits and two stolen bases.

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