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Blue Earth grad joins Hall of Fame

By Staff | Nov 10, 2013

Mary Bartley sat on the sidelines for nearly 18 years. Watching. Waiting.

Growing up, Bartley didn’t have many opportunities in sports like her male classmates.

Title IX opened the door for many generations of female athletes, such as Bartley.

The Amendment signed by President Nixon in 1972, gave the Blue Earth native just what she needed, a chance.

In fact, Bartley excelled to the point she was recently inducted into Winona’s Hall of Fame for athletes.

“I loved being a part of a team and playing sports,” Bartley says. “My high school experience did not allow me to get the full experience, but it was the start of something that evolved into my passion.”

She moved to Blue Earth from Wesley, Iowa, in 1959. Her father owned the local printing business called Bartley’s Printing.

“I had a paper route when I?was only six,” Bartley recalls. “It was enjoyable to help my dad with work. I learned about finances at a very young age.”

She attended Blue Earth High School from 1971-1974 and participated in tennis, badminton and basketball.

When she was only 16, she beat out college kids to win the Festival of Lakes Tennis Tournament.

She also took first place at the District 5 Badminton Tournament in 1972.

“I will always remember during lunch, the boys would play basketball,” Bartley says. “I’m disappointed in myself for never trying to join them, but it wasn’t socially acceptable at the time.”

Bartley loved playing basketball. However, it was only referred to as an “extramural sport” where the BE team only played three games on the same day.

BE defeated Winnebago and East Chain before falling to Frost in the one day season. She scored 44 of the 56 total points in the three games, she recalls.

Her lack of playing basketball really motivated Bartley to pursue a college where she could come right in and play basketball.

“I also wanted to choose a college where I could be my own person,” Bartley says. “Being the youngest of five children, I needed to have my own identity and chose Winona State.”

She ended up graduating with a math and physical education degree, along with two certificates in drivers education and coaching.

Bartley praises her mother for emphasizing the importance of education in her life.

“Without it, I wonder where I?would have ended up,” she questions.

Bartley was a women’s athletics pioneer at Winona State. She was a four-sport standout earning letters in volleyball, softball, tennis and basketball during her time as a Warrior.

She was the basketball team’s leading scorer in each of her four seasons while leading the Warriors to the 1978 championship game.

Bartley was named the Most Valuable Player for both the Winona State tennis and softball teams while serving as a three-year starter on the volleyball court. Bartley was a team captain for basketball, tennis and softball teams, also.

“Looking back, I have no idea how I balanced everything,” Bartley says. “When you are busy, you learn to manage your time well.”

In 1980, she started coaching girls varsity basketball at Hastings High School until 1985. Bartley then was approached to take over the girls golf team at Hastings.

Bartley never had the opportunity to golf when she was growing up; she did not know anything about the sport.

The Hastings hockey coach at the time convinced her to get involved with the girl golfers.

“I fell in love with the sport,” Bartley says. “You can find out a great deal about a person by golfing with them. The muscle memory and patience it takes to golf is incredible.”

Bartley needed to become a student of of the game of golf. She watched film and started playing it herself. There was never a round where she didn’t learn something new, she explains.

After it was all said and done, she coached Hastings girls for 27 years, five as a basketball coach and 22 as the golf coach.

One of her best memories was when she led Hastings to the Section Finals at Inver Grove Hills Community College in 1984. According to Bartley, there were over 2,000 spectators and the atmosphere was electric.

Another memory was in 2004, when she had the luxury of coaching a State golf champion.

Bartley recently hung up her teaching skills and retired after 34 years of teaching math.

“This is my first fall of not going to school and it certainly is a different feeling,” she reflects.

In 2000, Bartley was nominated to be inducted into the Winona State Hall of Fame. However, she did not fill out the necessary paperwork because at the time, her father was ill.

The opportunity came again three years later. This time, Bartley filled out an application.

She received a call from Winona State’s Athletic Director this past spring and was told she would be inducted in October.

“I thought that I?imagined that phone call,” Bartley says. “It truly was a humbling experience and I was very overwhelmed with all of the festivities that took place.”

Bartley and five other inductees were invited to a weekend of celebrating their achievements. There was a big celebratory dinner, they met the president of the University, were a part of a special parade and were also mentioned during halftime of a Winona State football game Oct. 18-19.

Bartley credits her brother, Tom, for teaching her how to win and take advantage of someone’s weaknesses.

He sent her a letter regarding the induction, which said “it wasn’t a matter of if, but a matter of time when people would recognize how great you really were.”

Tom has an award named after him that is given out to BEA cross country runners who exemplify determination and strong work ethic.

Mary Bartley also played AA softball in a Bloomington AA league until she was 42 years old. She admitted that her body just couldn’t take it anymore.

“Being the youngest of five children really made me want to stick out,” Bartley says. “I feel like I fit an entire lifetime of athletics into my college career.”

She was no longer waiting on the sidelines; Bartley stepped into the spotlight and made it her own.