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Staff file photo / Former Howard track star LaQuisha Jackson

Here's a look at the Chattanooga area's top nine female athletes since Title IX was enacted 50 years ago.

1. Venus Lacy (Brainerd)

After leading the Lady Panthers to the 1984 Class AAA state championship in basketball, she went on to help Louisiana Tech to three straight Final Four appearances and a national title in 1988. Lacy, who still ranks as the Lady Techsters' No. 4 all-time scorer, was also on the U.S. women's basketball team that won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and played professionally in the WNBA as well as in five international professional leagues.

 

2. Rhyne Howard (Bradley Central)

The former Tennessee Miss Basketball finalist helped the Bearettes win four district titles and three region championships, and as a senior she was named the state's player of the year by Gatorade. At Kentucky, she became the unanimous national freshman of the year, was one of only nine players in women's basketball history to earn All-America first-team honors three times, was a Wooden Award finalist and was named Southeastern Conference player of the year in both 2020 and 2021 — her sophomore and junior seasons — while also earning All-SEC defensive team honors. She was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA draft by the Atlanta Dream and was named the league's rookie of the month for May.

 

3. LaQuisha Jackson (Howard)

As a high school freshman, she ran the fastest times for all classifications in winning the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the state meet and also anchored Howard's championship 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams. She would later set state records in both sprint events, breaking a 32-year-old mark in the 200, then snapped a national AAU record in the 400 to become the nation's No. 1-rated high school sprinter, having never lost an individual event. She went on to set three Mountain West Conference records at San Diego State before transferring to Missouri, where she set six school records and earned All-America second-team honors. Twice she narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team.

 

4. Beth Alexander (East Ridge)

An all-state athlete in both softball and volleyball, she helped the Lady Pioneers win softball state championships in 1996 and 1998 and a volleyball title in 1997. She also finished her prep basketball career with more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, she set program records for wins (78), strikeouts (785), shutouts (33), games started (121), appearances (156) and innings pitched (757 1/3); she ranks second in career ERA (1.38) and opponent batting average (.176). Also an Academic All-American in 2002, she was pitcher of the year for the Southern Conference twice, was named to the All-SoCon team three times and helped UTC to four regular-season league titles.

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Top nine area female athletes of Title IX era

5. Brooke Pancake (Baylor)

One of only three girls in TSSAA history to win four straight individual golf state championships (2004-07), she also led the Lady Red Raiders to four straight team titles. She then went on to become a three-time All-American at the University of Alabama, where she finished second individually in the NCAA tournament and helped the Crimson Tide to their first national title in program history in 2012. She was also a three-time SEC women's golf scholar athlete of the year and joined the LPGA Tour in 2012, finishing in the top 15 the following year at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

 

6. Jody Adams (Bradley Central)

In only three years on the varsity basketball team, she finished her prep career with 2,450 points and has the highest scoring average (26.3 per game) in program history. A two-time all-state player in both basketball and volleyball, she led the Bearettes to three region titles and two district titles in basketball and helped them to state tournament appearances in both sports. She went on to play point guard at Tennessee for Pat Summitt, helping the Lady Volunteers win three SEC championships and the 1991 national title. After college she went into coaching. She has led the programs at Murray State and Wichita State and was recently named head coach at New Mexico State.

 

7. Jackie McClain (GPS)

The left-handed power hitter helped the Bruisers win softball state titles in 1998 and 2000, and she was a key factor in the 1998 team becoming the first to sweep its way to the championship without allowing a run. At that state tournament she went 7-for-12 with seven RBIs, then became the University of Alabama's second four-time All-American, ending her collegiate career with a .387 batting average and 181 RBIs.

 

8. Chantel Yates (Brainerd)

She was the state's first four-time pentathlon state champion (1996-99), also winning three titles in the 400-meter dash (1997-99), two in the 100 hurdles (1998-99) and one in the long jump (1999) to finish her prep career with an amazing 10 individual state championships. Going into the final event of the 1998 pentathlon, Yates was tied with Anderson County's Josie Hahn when Lady Panthers coach Eddie Lambert told her she would need a personal best in the 800-meter run to win. Yates set a state record with a time of 2:14, breaking her personal best by 14 seconds. She then went on to run at UNLV, where she was part of a 4x400 relay team that still has the second-fastest time in school history. In 2000, she was ranked as the nation's No. 4 college heptathlete and qualified for the U.S. junior national team.

 

9. Kelsey Nunley (Soddy-Daisy)

She pitched the Lady Trojans to Class AAA state titles in 2010 and 2012, with a runner-up finish in between. The 2010 team is considered one of the best in state history, finishing with a 52-2 overall record capped by Nunley's 12 strikeouts in the title game. Soddy-Daisy finished No. 4 nationally in ESPN's Fab 50 poll, the highest ranking ever for a Chattanooga-area team. She went on to become the SEC pitcher of the year at Kentucky, going 21-6 with a 1.59 ERA and 207 strikeouts as a senior, and played professionally.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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