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September 11, 2008 3:43 am

Former Powell star headed to UW Hall of Fame

Written by Tribune Staff

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The 1978-79 University of Wyoming women's basketball team included Dale Ann Meeker (24) and Sue Pollart (20) of Powell and Lori Kline (50) of Cody. The team will join the UW Hall of Fame Friday night. Courtesy photo

Meeker, 1978-79 Cowgirls basketball squad to enter UW Hall of Fame

When the 1978-1979 Cowgirl basketball team joins the University of Wyoming Sports Hall of Fame Friday, it will be another career highlight for Dale Ann Meeker of Powell.

Meeker played guard for the 1978-1979 Cowgirl basketball team, which also included Sue Pollart of Powell and Lori (Kline) Waddell of Cody.

This is the 16th class of athletes and teams to join the Hall of Fame.

The team joins its coach, Margie McDonald, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame about six years ago.

“It's just quite an honor,” Meeker said. “For 33 years we were the best team that ever had played there.”

The team won a postseason berth in the AIAW Regional Tournament in Tucson, Ariz., and lost to Weber State 74-70 in the first round. The team compiled a 25-7 season record, racking up records that still stand, including most team rebounds at 77, most blocked shots in a game with 15, most points in a season – 2,464 in 33 games; most field goals attempted – 2,308 in one season and most rebounds in a season with 1,573.

The team remained UW's most successful women's basketball team until the 2006-2007 Cowgirls won the women's NIT.

Meeker said the women on her team succeeded because they all came to campus with a strong basketball foundation and the belief that they could compete at that level. Then they all worked during the offseason to make sure.

“We didn't worry about comparisons. We didn't worry about this or that. We just did our thing,” Meeker said.

Meeker was the first woman to receive a UW basketball scholarship. The first two years it covered tuition, but by her junior year it was a full-ride scholarship covering all her expenses. She started every game for four years.

Meeker said the women's basketball team was known and respected on campus.

“We were getting good crowds. We got full support of the students. When we walked around on campus, they knew who we were,” she said.

Four Wyoming players formed the core of the UW team during her career, Meeker, Cindy Bower from Worland, Linda Gilpin from Cheyenne and Rosann Wisroth of Burns. Sue (Owens) Pollart, a Colorado native, was the fifth player.

“That's kind of what's exciting, we were just four little Wyoming girls,” Meeker said. “We didn't know we shouldn't be able to compete. We just kept working at it.” Although women from many other states played for UW during her career, “that nucleus came out of the state of Wyoming.”

“We just loved to play. We loved to practice and we loved to play,” she said.

Meeker grew up playing basketball. Her father moved her family from Lovell to Powell when she was in eighth grade because Powell offered more athletic opportunities for girls. Meeker credits long-time athletic director Keith Bloom's foresight in emphasizing girls' sports as part of the early success of Powell girls' basketball.

Meeker played for two Powell High School teams that won “mythical” state championships in 1974 and 1975. They defeated Natrona County High School both times. “Mythical” state championships were awarded because Wyoming did not have a statewide classification system for girls' basketball. Bloom and other athletic directors organized a statewide, all-class tournament in Powell.

The Natrona team had never lost in more than 40 straight games before it fell to Powell in 1974, Meeker said.

“Powell should be very proud that they provided this opportunity for girls” before communities across Wyoming or Montana, Meeker said. “All of us that took part in the evolution are so proud.”

Girls basketball has come a long way from when Meeker's Powell High School teams got one night a week to practice in the main gym. The girls had to purchase their own black shorts, she said, although the school did buy uniform shirts. They played 12 to 14 games a season, all on Saturday mornings. At the university, the team spent the first couple of seasons getting taped in the hall before they were allowed to use the men's training room.

“It's been a real privilege to watch everything grow as it has,” Meeker said.

Meeker returned to Powell to assist Frank McCarthy, then coach of the Powell girls' basketball team, before assuming the coaching duties. She said she tried during her tenure as Powell High School coach to instill in her players that same sense of pride and to let them know they had come a long way since the beginning.

“I tried to help the girls appreciate those that came before them,” she said. Her PHS and UW days “gave me an appreciation of how important a team was,” not just individual efforts.