A Century of Connection: St. Ben’s Blazers Athletics [VIDEO]
ST. JOSEPH — An invitation to a Blazers volleyball game changed Sister Lois Wedl’s life forever.
Wedl graduated from St. Boniface High School in Cold Spring in the late 1940s. She says she often stormed the principal’s office saying, “It’s not fair.” She continues, “At the time girls had nothing and boys had everything. Nobody seemed to care at all.”
Wedl’s senior year she decided to play late-night basketball with three of her friends. She says the gymnasium was unlocked so they went in and played with a flat basketball.
The next day the principal sent around a note warning students not to use the school’s facilities after hours.
Wedl says, “I wish I would have stood up for what I believed, maybe Title IX would have come earlier.”
Wedl got a job working at The College of St. Benedict in 1986. One of her students invited her to a women’s volleyball game. At the time Wedl says she didn’t know too much about the sport but she went anyway. She says she saw women doing what she always wished she could do.
She was hooked from that moment on, “I just kind of lived in the gym from volleyball and into basketball.”
She began attending every home and away game for all Blazers sports, both cheering them on to victory and supporting them in their losses.
Blazer athletics began competing in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1985. That same year the women’s basketball team won its first MWCC tournament championship.
The college’s athletic facility, Claire Lynch Hall also opened in the mid-1980s. It was a big milestone for the women who previously trained in a gym which was not up to competition standards.
Current athletic director, Carol Howe-Veenstra says, “we came into a time where we were really trying to figure out where we fit and where we belonged.”
She says things shifted quickly and the women became significantly competitive in the MIAC.
Wedl says at the time she didn’t know what it meant to go to sections, but she was excited to go.
Wedl was inducted into the Blazers Hall of Fame in June for her dedication and commitment to women’s athletics.
She says athletics has come a long way from where it started when she was in high school.
Howe-Veenstra says there is still room for improvement, “we don’t wanna think like we’ve arrived because we absolutely haven’t.”
In the 2009 and 2010 season St. Ben’s basketball team won its fifth consecutive MIAC championship and the golf team finished second in the MIAC Conference tournament.