Mabel-Canton’s first girls’ basketball team reunites

Gathering for a reunion recently, members of the first girls’ basketball team at Mabel-Canton shared memories of playing together and catching up on each others’ lives. From left are Marty (Dahlen) McKelvey, Diane (Wenthold) Wilder, Linda Wilder, Jean Westby, Terry (Mengis) Austin, Deb (Barrett) Miller and Coach Warren Barrett. BARB KERNS/NEWS LEADER
By : 
Barb Kerns
News Leader

The Mabel-Canton inaugural girls’ basketball team from the 1974-1975 season had a get-together at one of the former player’s home to reminisce and share experiences.

On Saturday, July 14, a few former basketball players and their coach gathered together to share memories about their experiences as members of the inaugural program at Mabel-Canton.

Former coach Warren Barrett told the group that at the time the girls’ new basketball program was being formed, he was the boys’ team assistant coach.  Although he anticipated moving into the head coach position, Barrett was instead tapped to head the girls’ basketball team.

Barrett was also coaching the Mabel-Canton football team at the time.

Barrett stated that initially the girls’ practices were held in the Canton gym for about the first month but an alternating practice schedule with the boys’ basketball team was soon implemented.

Members of the first M-C varsity and b-team attending the gathering were Marty (Dahlen) McKelvey, Diane (Wenthold) Wilder, Linda Wilder, Jean Westby, Terry (Mengis) Austin and Deb (Barrett) Miller as well as Coach Barrett and his wife, Barb. They all shared many memories and experiences of Barrett’s four seasons of coaching the team.

Diane Wilder’s son, Adam Wilder, is the current varsity girls’ coach and compiled a historical rundown of the Cougar girls’ basketball program from 1974 through the past 2017-2018 season. The group was able to use these stats as points of reference to trigger more memories of their shared experiences on the team.

It was noteworthy that the team coached by Barrett compiled an impressive record of four conference championships, one regional runner-up title, one district championship and one district runner-up win in their first four seasons.

In addition, records were set during this time period that took decades to break and some still remain in the record books. 

Marty (Dahlen) McKelvey held the total scoring record for a single season, 1978, as well as the career scoring record until 2017, when Coranda Vickerman passed her in both accomplishments.

This was additionally notable due to the fact that the three-point shot was not adopted in Minnesota’s girls’ rules until the 1987-1988 season.

The changes in community involvement and the intensity of the experience were discussed.

People used to plan their schedules around sporting events, travel was to area schools and the student body was fully engaged from pep fests, with the band playing at the games and players having packed gyms to play in; all were felt to be changed in today’s sports experiences where there are more activities and distractions from years past.

The game night intensity levels were remembered, with it noted that Coach Barrett made it clear that every game was equally important. 

All of the attendees shared their memories and there was lots of laughter and camaraderie. McKelvey showed a PowerPoint presentation made up of photos, newspaper articles and mementoes’ from her history with the school’s program.

McKelvey, who went on to play for the University of Minnesota from 1978 - 1982, had success in their program as well, helping the Gophers achieve an 81-44 record.  She was inducted into the Minnesota Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007. 

All that were able to attend said they had a great time remembering an important piece of school history.

If anyone is interested in contributing missing information regarding the girls’ basketball program to Adam Wilder or possibly establishing a reunion night during the regular season schedule, persons can contact the Mabel-Canton School or Wilder personally.