Faceless names on a wall and more than 60 years of tradition came to life this weekend for Aubrey Pedigo and the rest of the current Wayland Baptist Flying Queens roster, and the whole experience made quite an impression.
Having looked countless times at names of some of the best players in the illustrious history of the Flying Queens program posted on their locker room wall, Pedigo said actually seeing the women in front of her during a former players reunion on Friday was almost surreal.
"It was so awesome to see their faces and hear their voices and get to shake hands with them," said Pedigo, a junior post from Canyon. "The tradition here runs deep. It was very inspiring."
Close to 20 former Flying Queens and coaches – including seven players and their coach, Harley Redin, who helped Wayland forge a national record 131-game winning streak from 1953-58 – were in town this weekend for a Flying Queens reunion. Festivities originated in Hutcherson Center for a 30-minute ceremony Friday morning and continued at a reception that afternoon and a get-together Saturday. The current team took time out of their Friday afternoon practice to recognize former Flying Queen all-American Linda Pickens Price (1966-69), whose recent donation allowed for the renovation of the team's locker room.
"Wayland has been a pioneer in many areas: racial equality, remedial education, external academic enterprise and women's athletics," WBU President Dr. Paul Armes said during the Friday morning ceremony. "I'm not sure we'll ever know the impact our women's athletics program has had both on competitive collegiate female athletics and on the more general social and professional opportunities women now enjoy.
"And while universal gender equality hasn't quite been reached yet, you have helped raise the bar of awareness and opportunity more than you can ever imagine," Armes added. "We are proud of you and grateful for your legacy and your contributions to the university and our world."
"Welcome home … to Wayland."
Alice "Cookie" Barron, an AAU All-American in 1957, spoke on behalf of the former Flying Queens.
"We're thankful to Wayland Baptist University for giving us the stage to play women's basketball, long before Title IX," said Barron, who mentioned former WBU presidents Dr. J.W. "Bill" Marshall (1947-53) and Dr. A. Hope Owen (1953-63) for being instrumental in the advancement of the Flying Queens. "We were so privileged. We flew to games, stayed in the best hotels and ate good meals."
Barron, who said had it not been for Wayland and the Flying Queens she likely would not have been able to afford to attend college, said only 30 players – most from small communities in Texas and Oklahoma -- were members of the five teams responsible for the 131-game win streak. Of the 30, seven are deceased and nine were sisters (Lometa and Margaret Odom, Peggy and Rita Alexander, Faye and Raye Wilson, and Ruby, Ruth and Dorothy Cannon). Barron also pointed out that Rita Alexander Coleman was the only Flying Queen to play on the four straight AAU national championship teams.
Former Flying Queen Betty Courtney Donaldson (1965-67), a former vice president at WBU, thanked the team's sponsor, the late Claude Hutcherson, for his many contributions to the program.
"The catalyst of sisterhood that has evolved is remarkable," said Donaldson, who is helping organize a Flying Queens Foundation to support the program.
Also thanked were Hutcherson's wife, Wilda, who after Claude's death married Harley Redin, and Claude and Wilda's son Mike Hutcherson.
The Redins and Mike Hutcherson all received standing ovations from the crowd when they were introduced by Athletics Director Dr. Greg Feris and presented with medallions by Director of Alumni Development Danny Andrews. Medallions also were given to the seven players on hand from the 131-game win streak: Carla Lowry, Judy Bugher, Rita Alexander Coleman, Alice "Cookie" Barron, Mona Poff, Oma Gean Capps and Georgie Buttram Bryant.
"Not enough can be said today about the impact of the Flying Queens on this university," Andrews said.
Flying Queens who were on the teams during the 131-game win streak are being recognized by the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame as "Trailblazers of the Game." They will be honored when the WBHOF 2012 inductees are recognized Nov. 13 in Waco during a game between Baylor and Kentucky, and next summer at the WBHOF in Knoxville, Tenn.
The Trailblazers of the Game are scheduled to be featured in the March issue of Texas Monthly, which had a photographer and writer on campus this weekend, along with a film documentary crew from Denver.