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Title IX 'trailblazers' honored at Alexandria High School's track and field home invite

Beverley "B" Lohrman-Grossman and her original athletes, dubbed the "trailblazers" were honored at Alexandria High School's track and field home invite on Tuesday, May 16.

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"Trailblazers" from the original girls' Track and Field program in Alexandria hold up Beverley "B" Lohrman-Grossman's jacket, the first Alexandria Girls' Track and Field coach in fron of a record board dedicated to the late coach.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA โ€” The first Alexandria Girls' Track and Field coach Beverley "B" Lohrman-Grossman and her original athletes dubbed the "trailblazers" were honored at Alexandria Area High School's track and field home invite on Tuesday, May 16.

Lohrman-Grossman, who died in 2019, was a trailblazer herself. She fought for Title IX, was instrumental in establishing sports for girls in Alexandria and took on many hats after Title IX was enacted.

Along with being the first girls' track and field coach โ€” which was established in 1973 โ€” she was also the first girls' basketball and gymnastics coach. She did it all without pay just to get the programs jump-started. Eventually, other coaches were hired but track and field remained her bread and butter. Throughout her time as a coach, she not only trained talented athletes, she built up young girls who became confident women.

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Former athletes form the original Alexandria Girls' Track and Field program hang out under a canopy at the B Lohrman Invitational on Tuesday, May 16.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

Although it has been 50 years since the girls' track and field program was formed, many still hold her in high regard. That was evident during Tuesday's event where many of the original women from the program's early days met under a canopy on the sidelines of the Alexandria Area High School's track and field home invite, also called the B Lohrman Invitational.

They wore blue shirts with a pink print that read "B Lohrman Invitational, est. 1973. Alexandria Track and Field Trailblazer" along with name tags and their graduating year. Some came from across town, some came from across the state and some came from across the country. They conversed and shared memories of school, sports and of course "B" (Lohrman-Grossman).

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Sally (Tillitt) Smith, Jeanne (Ahlfors) Andert and Barb (Lantz) Nowicki, all Jefferson High School class of 1976 graduates, were a few of the trailblazers in attendance who remember the time when there were no organized sports for females. They all said if Lohrman-Brossman were here today, they would express how thankful they were for her.

The B Lohrman Invitational will take place on Tuesday, May 16 at Alexandria Area high School.

"Bev was a super encourager for things a lot of us have not done before," said Smith. "We did not have older sisters, cousins, neighbors, anybody doing sports."

Smith added that Lohrman-Grossman was always positive about the young girls exploring a new venture.
"There were so many times (Lohrman-Grossman) acted as a second mother to us," said Andert. "When I got kicked out of the state meet after a false start, she hugged me. When my dad was not feeling well, she hugged me. She was that kind of person. She was only in our lives like three, four years, but she was so much more than that. I went into physical education because of her."

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From left, Sally (Tillitt) Smith, Barb (Lantz) Nowicki and Jeanne (Ahlfors) Andert, pose in front of the track at Alexandria Area High School during the track and field team's home invite.<br/>
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

Nowicki added that she also went on to become both a physical education teacher and a track coach because of Lohrman-Grossman.

"She was a great role model. I wanted to be like her. She was an encourager but she was also tough. She didn't let you slack. She worked you but you improved and you had success and you wanted to do more," Nowicki said.

Andert said when her mother died in 2012, Lohrman-Grossman consoled her at the funeral and reminded her that her parents were proud of her. Smith said Lohrman-Grossman always sent Christmas cards. Nowicki said her mom was in the same nursing facility as Lohrman-Grossman so she was able to see her often before she died. She said Lohrman-Grossman was always reminiscing about her athletes and how proud she was of them and that she was "glowing" when she talked about them.

"She didn't just have an impact when we were in school; she had an impact all the way until she passed," said Smith. "She showed how you can make a difference in a younger person's life."

They all agreed that the B Lohrman Invitational was "sweet and nostalgic" and that they all felt "blessed" to be there together.

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Recent AAHS Alumni and former girls' Track and Field athletes Aleah Miller, Taelor Dummer and Emma Ecker, who all went on to continue their track and field careers at their respective universities, said that it means a lot to see the trailblazers and realize how far the program has come since its inception.

"I think it's cool looking at the women here today in celebration and wearing their T-shirts and realizing how much they have paved the way for us to be here today," said Ecker. "It's a really special thing to look back and realize how hard they worked."

Miller says she thinks it is "crazy" to realize that just over 50 years ago, females did not have the same opportunities in sports that they have today.

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From left, current head coach for the Alexandria Area High School's girls' track and field team, Meghan Orgeman, poses with AAHS alumni and former girls' track and field athletes, Aleah Miller, Taelor Dummer and Emma Ecker.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

"I think it is cool that we have come this far in 50 years," said Miller. "I started running when I was really young. Track has taught me so much. Not only on how to push myself both physically and mentally but also on how to be a good leader and be motivated in other aspects of life."

Dummer said sports help discover who you are as a person and teach you what you can become.

"It teaches young girls that you can break barriers and that you can achieve goals not only in sports but out of sports, in your career and life in general... being able to have that opportunity is crazy amazing," said Ecker.

When asked what they would say if they had a chance to meet Lohrman-Grossman, they would also say thank you.

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Sally (Tillitt) Smith, left, puts Beverley "B" Lohrman-Grossman's original coach jacket on Meghan Orgeman near the end of the event.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

"We wouldn't be here unless she did what she did," added Ecker.

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The invitational to honor Lohrman-Grossman and the athletes that were taken under her wing was made possible by another trailblazer, current AAHS girls' Track and Field coach, Meghan Orgeman, who became the first woman to hold the title of president for the Minnesota Track and Field Coaches Association. She along with the Bev "B" Lohrman Grossman Foundation organized the event. Orgeman says they plan on making it an annual celebration to honor not only Lohrman-Grossman but to encourage girls' athletics.

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While wearing Beverley "B" Lohrman-Grossman's coach jacket and sweatshirt, Meghan Orgeman, center, poses with the trailblazers.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

"I got emotional watching this... We have recent alumni, and we have our 1970s athletes in those beautiful blue shirts and to see everybody cheering on our future athletes was quite a powerful moment," said Orgeman. "I love when I can see multiple generations coming together and cheering each other on saying, 'Hey girls, I have been there before, We blazed this trail for you.' Quite a powerful moment. I get truly emotional about it."

The event concluded with a "fun run" featuring elementary and middle school boys and girls students.

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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