McDaniel College women's basketball coach Becky Martin, right, works with Kelli Griffith at the Becky Martin Green Terror Girls' Basketball Camp at McDaniel College in Westminster on Friday.
McDaniel College women's basketball coach Becky Martin, right, works with Kelli Griffith at the Becky Martin Green Terror Girls' Basketball Camp at McDaniel College in Westminster on Friday.(DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

Kristen Cannon helped make history by leading Manchester Valley's girls soccer team to the school's first state championship when the Mavericks beat Brunswick on Nov. 19, 2011.

That same day, Century's volleyball team captured its first state title with Abby Thrift leading the way in taking down Fallston in four games at University of Maryland.

A week earlier, Meghan Macera and Westminster's field hockey team defeated Mount Hebron for the 3A state crown, the Owls' second in a row.

Three girls state titles in a seven-day span for schools all within about 20 miles of each other. And none of it may have happened without Title IX, which celebrates its 40th anniversary today.

Cannon, Thrift, and Macera, all recent high school graduates, grew up in a sports world where girls competed as equals to boys. But that hasn't always been the case.

On June 23, 1972, backed by President Richard Nixon, the following statute became public law: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

Before Title IX was established, fewer than 300,000 high school girls played sports, according to recent survey figures on the National Federation of State High School Associations website. Two years later, in 1974, the number shot up to 1.3 million.

The NFHS survey numbers for the 2010-11 school year show more than 3.1 million girls playing sports. One of them was Cannon, who played three varsity sports at Manchester Valley and said she learned the importance of Title IX through the years.

"It shows that we're not just girls and it's not easier for us," Cannon said. "It's just the same as the guys. We have just as much competition as they do."

Cannon said she and her mom, Carla, have playfully feuded over the years about why Carla played field hockey instead of soccer when he was at North Carroll.

"I was teasing her, saying, 'You should have played soccer,'" Cannon recalled. "She said, 'I wasn't able to play soccer. They only had boys soccer when I was in high school.'"

Title IX was intended to give women a chance at higher education and better jobs. And when sports fell within the education realm, things changed for girls athletics.

Becky Martin has the historic Title IX sentence committed to memory. She teaches a class at McDaniel College that focused on coaching and management, and Title IX is one of the subjects. Martin, a Westminster High School graduate, has been the Green Terror's women's basketball coach for 31 seasons.

When she first started becoming interested in sports, many of the big-time options weren't available. Then came Title IX, just as Martin became a high school student.

"It changed my life," Martin said. "I was in the middle of it, being in the right time and at the right place. It afforded me and gave me an opportunity to further my life in sports and in my career."

Martin, a track and field star in the beginning, said she didn't start playing basketball until she was a sophomore at Westminster. She then attended Western Maryland College and became the school's first 1,000-point scorer.

Martin has totaled 454 wins and earned four Centennial Conference titles as McDaniel's coach. And she has Title IX to thank.

"I never would have thought in my wildest dreams, when I was a little girl, that my career path was going to be a college coach," Martin said. "It's provided me, along with thousands of other women, a career. I feel very grateful."