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We would be remiss if we allowed the recent passing of Ola Bundy to be marked by only an obituary notice in this newspaper.

Ola Bundy was a pioneer for girls sports at the high school level. She earned the distinction of being known as "the First Lady of girls interscholastic athletics in Illinois" and the respect that came with the title.

It was her perseverance, drive and determination that delivered girls sports to the level they are today. Girls throughout the state - past, present and future - should be thankful and grateful for the efforts of Bundy, who passed away Feb. 18 at the age of 70.

During her 29-year career as an administrator at the Illinois High School Association, Bundy led girls athletics from the early days of GAA and postal tournaments to a 12-sport state tournament lineup that is equal with the number of state tournaments offered for boys.

"There is nobody in the nation, starting at the grass roots level, who has poured her heart and soul more into the development of interscholastic programs that have the interest of the greatest number of girls than Ola," then-IHSA executive director Dave Fry said in a 1995 Pantagraph article announcing Bundy's retirement from the IHSA.

"There have been a lot of battles fought and Ola has spearheaded that," continued Fry. "Not just to create opportunities, but to protect those opportunities. An example would be preventing boys from coming into girls sports like volleyball. Now we have a boys volleyball program."

Tennis was the first girls sport to have a state tournament in 1972, followed by track and field in 1973.

"Those were her crowning moments," said Jan Wrigley, who worked as Bundy's assistant for nearly 19 years. "And her continuing crowning moments were as we added more state tournaments for girls. She was the driving force, who got them started."

Wrigley said the more hurdles and barriers thrown in Bundy's path, the more determined she became to accomplish her goal.

"She became even more resolved and wouldn't let things get her down," added Wrigley. "She knew she had to work that much harder to get things done. She was not afraid to face a challenge. She would get frustrated, but she knew she had to keep fighting.

"But the thing that always stuck with me about Ola was she wanted the kids to receive all the recognition, not her. And it wasn't just the girls. She wanted the same thing for the boys."

Bundy's stature made her an imposing, and sometimes intimidating, figure. But once you got to know her, she was very likeable and engaging.

"People who didn't know the real Ola saw her as a strong disciplinarian and a very strong force," agreed Wrigley. "But she actually had a good sense of humor and was a lot of fun. She liked to have fun."

A memorial service for Bundy will be one week from today from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. at the Bloomington High School Auditorium.

ISU record-holder

Bob Brenneman, the retired farmer from Minier who died last week, was credited with holding the single-game scoring record when he played at Illinois State more than a half century ago. A 6-foot-4 center, Brenneman scored 35 points against Eureka College in the 1950-51 season.

It was thought to be a school record at the time, but statisticians later discovered Fred Young scored 43 points in a game in 1910. Brenneman's feat was the second-highest total in the first 51 years of ISU basketball.

Teammate Earl Neeman of Mackinaw remembered Brenneman as "a big, strong kid who could rebound and get down the floor before everyone else got there."

Bryan Bloodworth is the sports editor. Contact him at bbloodworth@pantagraph.com

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