Teel: Title IX opportunity set Hokies’ tennis pioneers on path to lifelong sports adventures |  Virginia Tech

Teel: Title IX opportunity set Hokies’ tennis pioneers on path to lifelong sports adventures | Virginia Tech

David Teel Richmond Times-Dispatch

Anne Jones and Lynne Krulich completed the 1992 Ironman triathlon in Hawaii and ran the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996. They play in various tennis leagues and have competed in myriad adventure races — think cross-country running, mountain biking, repelling and paddling.

The identical twins wonder if any of these adult sporting conquests would have occurred without Title IX and their Virginia Tech tennis careers.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act prohibits sex discrimination in “any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Then-President Richard Nixon signed the measure into law 50 years ago, on June 23, 1972, days after Lynne and Anne had completed seventh grade at War Junior High School in McDowell County, W.Va.

With no girls teams at the school, the sisters had petitioned the school board to run on the boys track squad. Their father, Jim, an assistant superintendent, may have lobbied on their behalf.

Anne was a middle-distance runner, Lynne a hurdler, and their male teammates and coaches welcomed them. By the time they reached high school, Title IX-mandated girls teams were emerging, and the twins competed in track, basketball and tennis, the latter their specialty.

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Sports were always a Jones family obsession. The twins traveled with their grandparents and parents to Virginia Tech football games, about a two-hour drive from War, and gleaned their Daring spirit from their grandfather.

“[He] pretty much taught Lynne and I to run and ride horses and shoot guns and play basketball and softball, whatever,” Anne said. “He wanted grandsons. He got granddaughters, but that didn’t stop him. And good for us. We love it.”

The twins graduated from high school in 1977, months after Virginia Tech completed its first season of varsity women’s basketball. The Hokies added women’s tennis for 1977-78, and the Jones girls became the school’s first female scholarship athletes, albeit on partial grants-in-aid.

They played for three head coaches in four years, including an engineering professor who just happened to play tennis. The women’s sports teams shared a spartan locker room, and the women’s tennis team practiced under the lights on the Washington Street courts from 9-11 pm, this so the athletic department could rent the courts to the general public during the day.

Lynne and Anne didn’t feel slighted.

“We were aware of what [Title IX] had done for us so far,” Lynne said. “… I don’t know that we understood the enormity, but we were aware that it was something special for us to be on an athletic scholarship there. We were thrilled.”

Anne majored in physical education with a minor in history, while Lynne majored in English. Both earned their master’s at Tech before life took them on different courses.

Lynne returned to West Virginia and worked for decades at health clubs. Anne became the Hokies’ first full-time women’s tennis coach, a position she held for 16 seasons.

Her starting salary was $7,000, and wow, what a bargain for Virginia Tech.

From 1985-2000, Anne guided the Hokies to a 260-159 record, five Atlantic 10 Conference championships and five NCAA tournaments. Under her leadership, and with support from athletic directors such as Dave Braine and Jim Weaver, plus men’s tennis coach Larsen Bowker, women’s tennis gradually emerged from its infancy.

Practice times became reasonable and convenient. Scholarship and operating budgets grew. Facilities and equipment improved.

Indeed, Virginia Tech fully funds the eight women’s tennis scholarships allowed by the NCAA, and according to its 2020-21 NCAA financial report, operating expenses for women’s tennis ($873,999) exceeded those for men’s tennis ($809,712).

Similarly, women’s swimming, soccer and golf had larger operating budgets than their male counterparts.

“Tech came along like the rest of the country,” Anne said, “far as I can tell. … I think Tech has done as good a job as anybody. … [Women are] still not equal. There’s plenty of places where we’re still not equal. But I think as far as athletics, at least at Virginia Tech, they’ve done a good job.”

The Hokies opened their Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center in 1992, about halfway through Anne’s coaching tenure. Featuring 12 outdoor courts and six indoor, the complex was a marked upgrade. But after 30 years, Anne would like to see Tech invest in enhancements, or a new facility.

“Our facility is wonderful,” she said, “but it’s old, and [lacking] compared to the other ACC schools. And that’s not a gender equity or Title IX thing at all. It’s the same for the men.”

Anne found her lifetime home in Blacksburg and is a fixture at Burrows-Burleson, where she teaches and competes. Lynne relocated to Blacksburg in 2013, and the twins, now 63, play plenty of tennis together.

Before the move, Lynne had given up the sport for more than 30 years. She was working full-time, raising a family, taking up golf and traversing the country with Anne for marathons, the Ironman and adventure races.

Anne blames Lynne, who was working at fitness centers with pools, for their triathlon plunge, and after watching an Ironman, the sisters aspired to join the fun/madness and finish the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycling course and full marathon. Friends and family accompanied them for a 10-day junket to Hawaii, and the twins navigated the grind in about 15 hours.

Four years later, they made the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon of three hours, 45 minutes, a pace of about 8:36 per mile. That earned them the privilege of joining a record throng of 38,708 for the iconic race’s 100th edition.

The cranky joints that accompany age and relentless activity have curtailed Anne and Lynne’s endurance feats, unless there’s another set of tennis to play.

“We’ve really had a blessed life,” Lynne said.

“Obviously Lynne and I owe a lot to Title IX,” Anne said. “Probably that’s what started this whole adventure, being able to go do what we wanted to do.”


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