Ten pioneering women in Maine sports were honored by the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators’ Association on Thursday. From left, Brenda Beckwith, Lisa Blais-Manning, Reta Brown, Emily Ellis, Bonnie Lewis Titcomb, Tracie Martin, Anita Murphy, Amy Vachon, Diana Walker and Sue Weatherbie. Steve Craig photo

ROCKPORT — Brenda Beckwith remembers the day in 1976 when she asked the Lawrence High football coach if she could use the school’s weight room and was told, “the weight room is not open to the girls.”

She tells the story not to shame Pete Cooper, the iconic Lawrence football coach at the time. Rather, her story illustrates the attitudes that surrounded girls’ and women’s sports in the mid-1970s, just a few years after Title IX became federal law.

“Now, the expectation is everyone has to lift weights, male or female,” Beckwith said. “If you want to get better, it needs to be a part of your regimen.”

Beckwith went on to star on the Lawrence basketball team, win an AIAW Division II national championship at William Penn University in Iowa in 1981, and coach Winslow High to four field hockey state championships.

While Title IX was originally intended to enhance employment opportunities, especially at colleges and universities, it became the landmark legislation that has paved the way for girls to have increasingly equitable and fair opportunities to play and excel in sport.

“I went to college on a scholarship. I was a (beneficiary) of Title IX,” Beckwith said. “Because two or three years difference, I wouldn’t have. No way.”


On the 50th anniversary of Title IX, Beckwith was one of 10 women honored Thursday by the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators’ Association at its annual awards luncheon Thursday at the Samoset Resort.

Joining her were University of Maine women’s basketball standouts Emily Ellis and Amy Vachon, the current women’s basketball coach at UMaine; Lisa Blais-Manning, who captained the Old Dominion women’s basketball team to the 1985 NCAA title; USM Husky Hall of Famer and three-sport game official Reta Brown; track and field athlete and coach Bonnie Lewis Titcomb, who also served as a state senator; athletic administrator and three-sport official Tracie Martin; recently retired Lewiston High girls’ tennis coach Anita Murphy; recently retired Sanford High field hockey coach Diana Walker; and Sue Weatherbie, the founder of the Maine Field Hockey Coaches’ and Officials Association.

Ellis, a standout athlete at Mt. View in Thorndike, said that when she was in grade school, she quickly learned that she had to bring the best ball to the playground so the boys would let her play. She didn’t get to play an organized sport until seventh grade. When she played in her first college basketball game at the University of Maine, it was the first women’s game she’d ever seen. Ellis went on to score 1,637 points and lead the Black Bears to their first 20-win season. When she graduated in 1985, she held 20 school records and became the first UMaine woman to play basketball professionally, competing in Finland.

“When you sit on the sidelines for a long time and watch everybody else get to play and you know you should be there, when you get the chance to play, all hell has a chance to break through and that’s pretty much how it went,” Ellis said.

Ellis is involved with the Women’s Basketball Coaches in Maine. Founded in 2020 by Vachon, the group promotes and supports women who want to become coaches, or move up from a subvarsity position to become a varsity head coach. Ellis said one unintended side-effect of Title IX is that as girls’ sports gained respect and the resources to succeed, more men began to coach women’s sports.

“You need to have those women as role models for those women who are there,” Ellis said. “It doesn’t make any sense that it would always be men coaching women.”


Blais-Manning said growing up in Westbrook, she never felt she was being sidelined by her gender. But she does remember the girls’ varsity basketball games were usually played at 3:30 p.m.

“At Westbrook High, the sun would come through the windows on the side of the gym and blind you,” she said. Westbrook won four straight state championships.

“Just to be able to get on a court or field and we had teams that were organized. That’s what mattered to me,” Blais-Manning said. “We got the same treatment the boys’ teams were getting. Maybe a little more because we were winning.”

Blais-Manning is now a junior varsity coach in field hockey and basketball and a middle school track coach at Scarborough. She said sports gave her a place to shine and to grow as a person.

“I was the youngest of eight and to get any attention, you had to be good at something,” she said. “I was very shy, and if it weren’t for athletics, I would be way behind as far as making those memories and those friendships. That was my chance to come out of my shell. I mean, that was a lifesaver for me.”

MIAAA HONORS: Mike Lowe, the recently retired Portland Press Herald sportswriter, was recognized by the MIAAA as the winner of this year’s MIAAA Media Award. Lowe was credited in particular for his dedicated reporting of girls’ and women’s sports over a 40-year career. Other MIAAA awards were presented to athletic administrators, including: Medomak Valley’s Matt Lash, MIAAA Leadership Award; Kennebunk’s Joe Schwartzman, Keith Lancaster CAA Professional Development Award; Narraguagus’ Tracie Martin, Robert Boucher 7th Player Distinguished Service Award; and Scarborough’s Jordan Ferreira, Excellence in Middle-Level Athletic Administration Award.

The MIAAA also presented four scholarships to student athletes. The scholar-athlete awards went to Ali Gilman of Penobscot Valley and Sutter Augur of Yarmouth. The Scholar Essayist winners were Savannah Tracy of Freeport and Thomas Horton of Bonny Eagle.

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