Women’s Fall Sports

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, Ohio Northern University shares the stories of some iconic athletes of the past. Find out how their participation in ONU Athletics influenced their future course.

From college player to collegiate coach

Kim McGowan, BA ’12, was a top competitor on the Ohio Northern University women’s soccer team. Today she leads a new generation of collegiate football players as the head coach of Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.

At the UN, she made history as a member of the first women’s soccer team to make it to the NCAA Division III Tournament and win an NCAA Tournament game.

“I love that going to the NCAA tournament is now the standard (for UN women’s soccer) and it’s just a matter of how far they can go,” she says.

Playing football at the UN gave McGowan lifelong friends and supporters. “Coming back to campus, seeing old coaches and professors and knowing that they believed in a much younger version of who they are today, is something I beyond appreciate,” he says. “I’m always proud to be a polar bear.”

Soccer is a “game for players,” McGowan says, because there are no timeouts and specific game plans that always work. That’s what he loves about sports. “The game of football is viewed, trained and performed differently from all perspectives.”

Prior to assuming the head coaching position at Austin Peay, McGowan coached the women’s soccer programs at Miami (Ohio) University, Hiram College, and Agnes Scott College, while directing the programs at Olivet College and Thomas More University. Her philosophy as a coach is simple: work, compete, have fun.

“Your work rate and the level of competitiveness you bring is completely controllable. I believe that if you work your hardest and compete at the highest level, you are having more fun,” she says.

I’ve never stopped running

Photo of Mandy (Miller) Yates, as a cross country skier

In the late 90s, at Ohio Northern University, and hasn’t stopped running since.

Mandy recalls that she was “still very naïve about college racing” when she qualified for the NCAA National Cross Country Championship in 1996. Her coaches not only prepared her mentally and physically to compete at this level, but they motivated her to keep reaching for the stars.

Across the country, Mandy met lifelong friends and his wife, Brian Yates, BSEE ’01. “Brian and I enjoyed running together so much that we decided to become running partners for life by getting married in 2002!”

The UN inducted Mandy, who was a 1997 All-American and one of the cross country program’s all-time greats, into the Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011.

Today, Mandy is a pharmacist and also the coach of her children’s high school cross country team in Florida. She and Brian continue to run together and both ran the Boston Marathon in 2011. Mandy also qualified for and ran in the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012. In recent years, the pair have begun competing in a new type of run called the SwimRun, which is a mix of swimming and running.

“Running is a passion of mine,” says Mandy, “I love how running is something everyone can participate in. Every runner can do and fight to achieve their goals. I love sharing my passion with my family and other people in my community.”

His advice to today’s UN cross-country student-athletes? “Life is one great adventure. There will be great moments and less great moments. Remember the best parts, learn from the rest and move on. Most important of all: keep running!

True passion for competition and training

Maggi Williams, the first African-American woman on the UN volleyball team

Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, Maggi Williams, BA ’77, the first African-American woman on the UN volleyball team, says “Women’s sports have and must go a long way.”

He recalls wearing the same uniform for years and having no proper transportation to games in the 1970s. “And I will always remember walking out of class and going to Ada Park to drive the tractor for softball game prep!”

Maggi grew up in a family of 13 children and her father died of an aneurysm when she was just 12. She was the first in her family to go to college, so she put a lot of pressure on herself to do well. She excelled in three sports at the UN: volleyball, basketball and softball.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be coached by caring, professional, and intelligent coaches who have instilled great work habits, pride, and knowledge about sports and life,” she says. “(I’ve met) so many thoughtful and professional people on campus. I will always be grateful to you.”

Maggi has turned her gratitude into action and has dedicated her entire career to being a caring teacher and coach. After the UN, she joined the staff of Sydney Local Schools (her hometown) where she coached varsity softball (age five) and basketball (age 19) and taught health and physical education for 35 years. She then continued as Associate Athletic Director, retiring in May 2021 for a total of 43 years!

Maggi was inducted into the UN Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990. This fall, she was inducted into the Sidney High School Hall of Fame.

Her advice to UN female athletes: “I appreciate the many opportunities at the prestigious UN because the coaches and athletes struggled to get them… And enjoy the ride!”

Sisters in sport

The Kanukel sisters of the UN Volleyball

For the Kanukel sisters, the favorite highlight of UN Volleyball was playing on the same team for two seasons.

Hannah (Kanukel) CreagerBSBA ’05 and Karlee (Kanukel) BadenhopBSBA ’07, also points to more amazing highlights, such as being OAC Regular Season Champs/Co-Champs, OAC Tournament Champs, and making NCAA Tournament appearances six of six years.

They are grateful for the strong women who, decades earlier, paved the way for them to play sports at a high level.

Karlee says, “I have certainly been fortunate to reap the rewards of those who pushed for Title IX and endured the hardships of playing/coaching female athletes more than 50 years ago. Since then, we have seen significant growth in women’s athletics, from youth to professional, skyrocketing the level of competition.”

She adds that she wants to keep moving forward for her daughter. “I want you to know that you should never lose sight of what makes us exceptional, what makes us strong, what makes us women.”

Playing volleyball at the UN has taught the sisters life skills, including resilience, confidence, discipline and a growth mindset, they say.

“The family culture I was a part of during my polar bear years helped shape me into the woman I am today,” says Hannah.

Karlee adds, “I often tell people that my experiences at the UN have made me a better person.”

The two sisters share more in common than just volleyball. Both met their husbands at the UN and both have four children!

Mom knows best

Lisa McFadden is supportive of her daughter, Lea McFadden

Lisa McFaddenBS ’96, dug into his closet and lo and behold he still had it: his 1995 pullover emblazoned with his UN volleyball jersey number!

Lisa is thrilled to be wearing the pullover again, this time in . Specialized in exercise physiology, Lea sports the lucky number 13 on her shirt this season, the same number her mother wore.

For mother and daughter, playing volleyball at the UN is something they will always enjoy.

Lea says, “Playing volleyball at Ohio Northern University is about being a part of something bigger than me. I learned what it means to take responsibility, earn respect, love teamwork and seek dedication, all while being a student-athlete at the UN.”

Lisa adds, “There’s just a special bond that developed between teammates and coaches while I was playing volleyball at the UN. Even when you haven’t seen a teammate for several years, you can just pick up where you left off.”

She continues, “I’m so proud to be a polar bear volleyball player, and I think that pride is multiplied by having Lea too. Over the years I have told many stories of playing volleyball at the UN to my children. (My kids always tell me they’ve heard that story before, but I keep telling them anyway-ha ha ha!) Now, Lea will have her own stories to tell her children someday. It’s so nice to see her in issue 13. She brings back so many good memories to me!

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