A Portage-born athlete is recognized for some incredible accomplishments in the 1990s.
Jen Ostapowich is inducted into the Mayville State University Athletics Hall of Fame this weekend and says it’s an incredible honor. She adds that her induction will take place on a special anniversary.
“It’s the 50th anniversary of Title 9, so they’re doing a full celebration of female athletes this year,” says Ostapowich. “During this induction weekend, it is a celebration of all female athletes over the years. Any woman who has played track and field at Mayville State University is invited to return for a weekend celebration.”
Title 9 was a law formed in the United States in 1972 that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or programs that receive federal funding. Ostapowich says that makes scholarship even between men and women and notes that before that, many women’s teams had to train at an off-campus facility.
Ostapowich is one of three women inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame on Jan. 29, but says it won’t be her first time in a Hall of Fame. She notes that she was inducted into the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame and the Canadian Softball Hall of Fame previously for her team accomplishments with the Midget Smitty Terminators from 1994-96. However, this time she was inducted for her personal achievements and says it’s a completely different feeling, but still believes the rest of the team deserves the credit as well.
“My first thoughts were just ‘when are the other girls going to be inducted too?’ It’s a team effort and you’re only as good as the team around you, so I’d say every one of those girls that were next to me should also be inducted at some point,” says Ostapowich “So my thoughts weren’t that selfish and were more like ‘what about the others?’
La Portagère spoke humbly of her accomplishments, giving immense credit to her teammates and coaches. While she was adamant that the credit was worth spreading, Ostapowich led the group on the court in winning the team MVP award from 1997 to 1999 and was named All-American Scholar-Athlete at the during his last two seasons.
The Mayville State Comets had their best record in nearly a decade in 1997 and were just one game away from qualifying for their first regional tournament in team history, however in 1999 they were there. reached. Ostapowich helped lead the Comets to their first appearance in the NDCAC Tournament in her senior season and was named the conference’s most valuable senior graduate.
“I was also All-Region in 1999, my graduation year, which I don’t think had happened to anyone in Mayville State before that,” Ostapowich adds.
The former pitcher says her upbringing at Portage was critical to her career and notes she doesn’t regret a single move she made.
“Growing up in Portage la Prairie in those days, when you’re a female athlete, you play all the sports because the team needs you because there aren’t a lot of people,” says Ostapowich. “I played ringette at Portage from the age of four until I graduated from high school. I played with people who are still my best friends today.”
Ostapowich was chosen by many softball teams while growing up in Portage. She says she has played on several national teams as well as teams from Flin Flon to Steinbach. The local product adds that the coaches she grew up with in Portage deserve as much credit as anyone for the success of her softball career.
“No coach, in my history growing up, did I ever have negative feelings towards. It was never anything but ‘This coach loves me, cares about me and taught me so much’ , continues Ostapowich. “I am lucky to have had the best coaches. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I weren’t led by a phenomenal group of adults who truly respected me and demanded respect, but also taught me many skills.”
Ostapowich will be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with former teammate and three-sport athlete Heidi Brunko, as well as basketball player Laura Big Crow. The induction ceremony is scheduled to take place on January 29.