Title IX: Cross Country

Anthony Hanson

In 1972, landmark legislation allowed women to received equal support in educational endeavors, especially athletics.

And in the sport of Women’s Cross Country, Cyclones were leading the charge into the new era of collegiate athletics.

In fact, the Iowa State Cyclones were the premiere program in the nation after Title IX changed the course of the sport. Fifty years later, despite a tragic event in the program’s history, Iowa State remains one of the nation’s leaders.

Early Years

Despite getting its start nearly fifty years after its male counterpart, Iowa State women’s cross country was a winner.

Not only did Iowa State earn a first-place finish in the first five Big Eight conference seasons, but the Cyclones also finished first nationally in the first four seasons following Title IX’s impact.

Title IX had guaranteed women across the country the promise of equal participation and support form universities. However, women like Iowa State’s Peg Neppel-Darrah were taking things a step further by taking the lead of the nation’s trailblazing female athletes.

Neppel-Darrah became Iowa State first ever female national champion in 1975 when she finished first in the AIAW championship. With George Veenker Golf Course in Ames, playing host, Neppel-Darrah’s teammate Barbara Brown was close behind in eighth place.

Running at its home course, led by Neppel-Darrah and Brown, Iowa State secured the first national title in the sport of women’s cross country.

At the 1975 meet, the likes of Penn State, Michigan State, Oregon, Florida and other highly established athletic programs round out the field. And as, women continued to make strides in the world of college athletics because of Title IX, the Cyclones continued to soar.

The Cyclones gained another national title the next season. At the 1976 championship meet held in Madison, Wisconsin, three Iowa State women’s cross-country athletes found themselves in the top ten individuals.

Again, in 1977 and in 1978, the Cyclones were on top of the AIAW in the sport of cross-country. Deb Vetter earned two top-ten individual finishes in those two seasons and helped give Iowa State the first four championships of the new era of women’s college athletics in women’s cross country.   

The era ushered in by the landmark legislation passed just over fifty years ago.

The Seven

Continued success