Narrowing thousands of champions and hundreds of history-makers in Minnesota high school sports down to a collection of 50 names was no easy task. But the work was worth it, as we continue to celebrate 50 years of Title IX.

Title IX’s influence was just blooming when Janet Karvonen was the dominant figure on any basketball court she stepped on in the 1970s. By the time Emily Covert and Kennedi Orr and Chaney Neu recently smashed Minnesota high school records, Title IX had shaped everything about their sporting lives.

So much has changed in the 50 years of Title IX, and yet here’s one constant: Minnesota girls wowing us with their athletic ability and achievements. In celebration of the 50th anniversary this month of Title IX, the Star Tribune produced this collection of the 50 most memorable Minnesota girl athletes of the Title IX era, focused tightly on high school accomplishments. Star Tribune prep sports reporter Jim Paulsen took on the challenge of creating this list — no easy exercise — and a team of editors and writers wrestled with it until we landed on a final 50.

We created this collection in the spirit of celebration and discussion. You may read this and find two things or 22 things you disagree with. We are happy to hear your reactions and will print some of them this week. Our goal is debating and discussing and putting tremendous girl athletes in the spotlight this month to celebrate a half-century of better sports opportunities for female athletes.

Without further delay, our list of the 50 most memorable girls to have played high school sports in Minnesota during the first 50 years of Title IX:


Erin Nickell, Robbinsdale-Hopkins-Mound Westonka
Erin Nickell
Robbinsdale-Hopkins-Mound Westonka

A six-year adapted sports stalwart, Nickell led the Robins to nine state championships in three sports in a stretch ending in 2011 and became the first player to tally more than 100 goals in adapted soccer. Longtime coach Marcus Onsum called her “easily one of the best female athletes I have coached.”


Rachel Banham, Lakeville North
Rachel Banham
Lakeville North

Few brought as much swagger and panache to the court as the south metro sharpshooter. A floor general in her high school days, her all-around play helped the Panthers to the 2010 Class 4A title. She was the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year in 2010 and 2011.

Paige Bueckers, Hopkins
Paige Bueckers

Easily the most heralded high school player to come out of Minnesota. In high school, Paige “Buckets” scored 2,877 points and led the Royals to four straight Class 4A title games, finally winning it all in 2019. She won three gold medals in international competition and was a unanimous All-America and National Player of the Year following her senior season.

Rebekah Dahlman, Braham
Rebekah Dahlman

Hailing from a hoops-crazy family in a central Minnesota basketball hotbed, Dahlman generated offense from seemingly anywhere on the court. She obliterated the state career scoring record, becoming in 2013 (and still remaining) the only girl to top 5,000 points, finishing with 5,060.

Tayler Hill, Minneapolis South
Tayler Hill
Minneapolis South

A dynamic offensive player, Hill scored 3,888 career points, which was the girls’ state record for four seasons until broken by Braham’s Rebekah Dahlman in 2012. Hill paced South to four state tournament appearances and the 2009 Class 4A championship in five seasons.

Janet Karvonen, New York Mills
Janet Karvonen
New York Mills

The Queen Mother of girls’ basketball in Minnesota. A terrific shooter with a deadly pull-up jumper, Karvonen was the first 3,000-point scorer and led New York Mills to three straight Class 1A championships, 1977-79.

Kay Konerza, Lester Prairie
Kay Konerza
Lester Prairie

Another in the string of girl superstars who put up big numbers in the pre-three-pointer era. Konerza scored 2,715 career points and held the record for points in a game (58, in 1982) for 36 years until it was broken by Prior Lake’s McKenna Hofschild, who scored 63 in 2018.

Kelly and Coco Miller, Rochester Mayo
Kelly and Coco Miller
Rochester Mayo

The Rochester twins were bookends in the Spartans’ run of two state championships in three years, 1995 (Class 2A) and 1997 (Class 4A). So symmetrical were they that their career point totals are within a few points: Kelly with 2,151, Coco with 2,113.

Tamara Moore, Minneapolis North
Tamara Moore
Minneapolis North

As a senior, Moore was the most accomplished player in Minnesota. She led North to its first girls’ basketball state title in 1998, won the Miss Basketball award and was named a WBCA Coaches’ All-America. Now the head coach at Mesabi Range College, she’s the first woman in college basketball history to coach a men’s team.

Liz Podominick, Lakeville
Liz Podominick

She first made a splash as a basketball player, scoring 2,323 career points and helping Lakeville to state titles in 2001 and 2002. Her athleticism carried over into track and field, where she won four shot put titles and two discus titles in Class 2A.

Kelly Skalicky, Albany
Kelly Skalicky

A tough-as-nails guard, she led Albany to four straight Class 1A state tournament appearances and the 1980 state title. She scored 2,704 career points. She also won the Class 1A individual golf championship in 1981.

Carlie Wagner, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva
Carlie Wagner
New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva

When she got rolling, Wagner scored points in bunches. She broke the state tournament records for points in a game and total points in a three-game tournament three years in a row. Behind Wagner, the Panthers won Class 2A titles in 2013 and 2014.


Emily Covert, Minneapolis Washburn
Emily Covert
Minneapolis Washburn

As a senior in 2018, Covert took the MSHSL girls’ Class 2A cross-country meet to another level, winning her second title in a row in a record 5K time of 17:03.4, more than 25 seconds better than any girl before or since. She also set the state record at 3,200 meters with a time of 10:06.29.

Kara Wheeler, Duluth East
Kara Wheeler
Duluth East

A tenacious distance runner, the future two-time Olympian (she was Kara Goucher by then) won four state championships — three in track and field and the 1993 Class 2A cross-country title — and if not for timing she may have had more. At least three times, she finished behind other members of this list, Carrie Tollefson and Barb Jones.

Elizabeth Yetzer, Lakeville
Elizabeth Yetzer

A three-time Class 3A cross-country champion from 2003-05, she became the first runner to cover the 4K course that was used then in under 14 minutes. She was also a five-time champ at the track and field state meet, winning the Class 2A 1,600 three times and the 3,200 twice. She still holds the meet record in the 1,600 at 4:46.14.


Jody Rosenthal, Hopkins Eisenhower
Jody Rosenthal
Hopkins Eisenhower

The first MSHSL-sanctioned girls’ golf tournament took place in 1977. Two years later, Rosenthal began her run as the first three-time state champion, winning 2A titles in 1979, ’80 and ’81.

Kate Smith, Detroit Lakes
Kate Smith
Detroit Lakes

Smith became the most successful girls’ golfer in MSHSL history by winning five consecutive Class 2A individual championships from 2012 to 2016. She shared the title once, in 2013, with teammate Natalie Roth.


Bailey DuPay, Northfield
Bailey DuPay

DuPay was at her best on the biggest stages. She won eight individual event titles and three consecutive Class 2A all-around championships at the gymnastics state meet. She was equally successful on the diving board, winning Class 1A championships from 2011 through 2013.

Chaney Neu, Champlin Park
Chaney Neu
Champlin Park

A knee injury cut short what was on pace to be the greatest high school gymnastics career in state history. She won seven individual event titles and three straight Class 2A all-around championships by the time she was a sophomore. She scored the first perfect 10 in state meet history on the vault in 2019.


Winny Brodt, Roseville
Winny Brodt

With a strong family hockey background, it’s easy to call the smooth-skating, hard-nosed Brodt the flag-bearer for the boom in girls’ hockey that followed her. She led Roseville to the 1995-96 state title, amassing 61 goals and 123 points, earning her the first Minnesota Ms. Hockey award.

Renee Curtin, Roseville
Renee Curtin

Two years younger than sister Ronda, Renee had a knack for scoring goals. She scored five goals in two games as a seventh-grader in leading the Raiders to the 1996 state title. She was Ms. Hockey in 2001 and is the state’s career scoring leader for boys and girls with 544 points.

Ronda Curtin, Roseville
Ronda Curtin

A linchpin for the first dynasty program in the early days of girls’ hockey. A smooth skater, tall and intuitive, she helped the Raiders to two state championships, third place and consolation titles in a four-year stretch and was named Ms. Hockey in 1999.

Natalie Darwitz, Eagan
Natalie Darwitz

The most talented girls’ hockey player the state has produced. Led Eagan to a runner-up state tournament finish as a seventh-grader. She amassed a whopping 487 points before leaving high school in 2000 for the U.S. national program after her sophomore season.

Gigi Marvin, Warroad
Gigi Marvin

Marvin would have stood tall in girls’ hockey even without being a member of one of Minnesota’s most respected hockey families. She was a three-time All-State selection and was selected Ms. Hockey in 2005 after a season of 55 goals and 112 points. She finished her high school career with 196 goals and 425 points.

Krissy Wendell, Park Center
Krissy Wendell
Park Center

A natural, instinctive athlete who developed playing on boys’ teams. She parlayed that training into a record-setting high school career with 335 points in just 62 games, including 100 goals in 2000-01 that still stands as the single-season state record for boys or girls. Park Center won the state championship that season.


Jessie Diggins, Stillwater
Jessie Diggins

The drive and talent that led to Olympic gold was evident in Diggins’ time as a high school skier. She won three individual pursuit championships in four years from 2007 through 2010 and likely would have made it four but missed the 2009 meet because she was competing in, and winning, the U.S. National Sprint championship.

Barb Jones, St. Paul Central
Barb Jones
St. Paul Central

Perhaps Minnesota’s best skier at the high school level until Jessie Diggins came along. Dogged and relentless, she parlayed her style into a terrific run in the mid-’90s, when the race was strictly classic style, winning state titles in 1993, 1994 and 1995. Also a track standout, she was runner-up in the Class 2A 1,600 and 3,200 in 1994.


Jena Kluegel, Mahtomedi
Jena Kluegel

Creative, athletic and tireless — as a freshman, she won the 800 meters in the track and field state meet and finished ninth in the Class 1A cross-country meet — she is arguably the best high school girls’ soccer player Minnesota has produced. She scored 35 goals in leading Mahtomedi to the Class 1A title in 1997 and was a two-time Metro Player of the Year.

Briana Scurry, Anoka
Briana Scurry

An all-around athlete at Anoka whose first love was basketball, she became a high school All-America as a senior goalkeeper in 1989 and backstopped the Tornadoes to a shootout victory in the 1989 state championship game. Her significance is magnified by being a one of the first Black standouts in the girls’ high school game.


Natalie DenHartog, Hopkins
Natalie DenHartog

An extraordinary hitter who was probably underappreciated as a hitter in high school despite being a two-time All-Metro first-team selection. Was All-State as a senior in 2018. A five-tool shortstop with a strong arm, she hit .500 with five homers and 30 RBI as a senior before going on to become an All-Big Ten selection at Minnesota.

Amber Hegland, Farmington
Amber Hegland

A two-sport standout in softball and girls’ hockey (when the sport was still in its infancy). She went on to play both sports at the University of Minnesota and is still a team record holder as a softball player. She was such a versatile athlete that she even played football for Farmington in her senior year, 1994.

Sara Moulton, Eagan
Sara Moulton

Moulton went 83-13 in high school with 1,142 strikeouts, a 0.35 ERA, 58 shutouts and 13 no-hitters, leading the Wildcats to the 2009 Class 3A state championship. A two-time Metro Player of the Year (2009, 2010), she was Ms. Softball and Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior.


Rachel Bootsma, Eden Prairie
Rachel Bootsma
Eden Prairie

She won five MSHSL state championships in the backstroke and the butterfly and set the national high school record in the backstroke. She also won a bronze medal at the Pan Pacific Games and a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics with the 4x100 medley relay team.

Megan Phillip, Edina
Megan Phillip

A transplant from Texas just before her freshman year, Phillip rewrote the state high school diving record book. She became the third diver to win four straight state championships, and in her junior year, 2018, she broke the 21-year-old state record held by Jaime Sanger when she scored 517.0 in the finals.

Jaime Sanger, Wayzata
Jaime Sanger

In the 1990s, Sanger set the standard for diving excellence. She became Minnesota’s first four-time diving state champion, winning the single-class meet in 1995 and ’96 and taking the Class 2A crown in ’97 and ’98, becoming the first diver to score higher than 500, 507.0, in 1997.

Kirsten Wengler, Hopkins Lindbergh
Kirsten Wengler
Hopkins Lindbergh

She set herself apart from other swimmers through sustained excellence in the freestyle events. Between 1978 and 1981, she won four straight championships in the 200 freestyle, three in the 500 and another in the 100, winning eight gold medals overall.

Rachel Wittmer, Edina
Rachel Wittmer

She was a seven-time individual state champion — four titles came in the state meet’s marquee race, the 50 freestyle, in less than 23 seconds — and also won two butterfly state titles and another in the 100 freestyle in a high school career that ended in 2016. She won seven more titles with Edina’s freestyle relay teams.


Anh Nguyen, Bloomington Jefferson
Anh Nguyen
Bloomington Jefferson

Just four years after Gina Suh became the first five-time singles champion, Nguyen matched her in 1998, using precise ground strokes with depth, pace and power to win five in a row in Class 2A. Jefferson won three team titles during her reign.

Gina Suh, St. Paul Academy
Gina Suh
St. Paul Academy

A technician who hit ground strokes like daggers, she became the first five-time singles champion in MSHSL history, winning the Class 1A title every year from 1989 to 1993. Her first title — a three-set victory over Sandy Kim of Breck — made her the first eighth-grader to win an MSHSL singles championship in state history.

Whitney Taney, Edina
Whitney Taney

If the mark of excellence is winning, then it’s impossible to find a Minnesota athlete who excelled more than Taney. She was 166-0 in her prep career:150-0 in singles, 16-0 in doubles. She won three singles championships, two doubles titles and was the national player of the year in 2007.


Maggie Ewen, St. Francis
Maggie Ewen
St. Francis

The most accomplished thrower of the discus and shot put in Minnesota high school history. She won the Class 2A discus championship five times and still holds the state record with a throw of 171 feet, 9 inches in 2012. She added four shot put titles and also owns the state record with a throw of 54-8 ½

Shani Marks, Apple Valley
Shani Marks
Apple Valley

A 2008 Olympian in the triple jump, Marks won her first and only MSHSL Class 2A track and field individual championship in 1997 when she won the long jump with a leap of 18-4 ¼. She added three more gold medals in that meet by leading three relay teams to victory.

Carrie Tollefson, Dawson-Boyd/Lac qui Parle Valley
Carrie Tollefson
Dawson-Boyd/Lac qui Parle Valley

The former Olympic distance runner (Athens, 2004) first burst onto the scene with a record-setting high school career. She won five cross-country individual championships from 1990-94 (three in Class 1A, two in 2A) and eight distance-running titles at the track and field state meet.

Heather Van Norman, Windom
Heather Van Norman

Now better known as the mother of NFL star Odell Beckham Jr., Van Norman was a dominant sprinter in the 1980s. She was a one-person team in leading Windom to back-to-back team titles in 1987 and ’88, winning the 100, 200 and 400 in both years, accounting for 60 of 66 team points.


Annie Adamczak, Moose Lake
Annie Adamczak
Moose Lake

Often called the best girls’ athlete in state history, she led Moose Lake to five state titles across three sports:volleyball, basketball and softball. In her senior year, 1981-82, all three won state championships with undefeated records.

Sydney Hilley, Champlin Park
Sydney Hilley
Champlin Park

A setter, she would have been a superstar at any position. A two-time Metro Player of the Year, she set a school record with almost 1,400 career kills. She was a first-team All-America as a senior in 2016.

Kennedi Orr, Eagan
Kennedi Orr

The 6-foot-tall setter was ranked as the top high school recruit in Minnesota. Learning behind older sister Brie — a superb Division I-level player in her own right — Kennedi was known for two things:her ability to play anywhere and her remarkable composure. She was named Ms. Volleyball in her senior year, 2019, despite missing much of the season with injury.

Samantha Seliger-Swenson, Hopkins
Samantha Seliger-Swenson

With an accomplished volleyball coach for a mother, Seliger-Swenson was bound to be a setter from the day she stepped on the court. Few could turn a difficult pass into a perfect set more adeptly. A three-time All-America, she was Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year and Ms. Volleyball in 2014.

Ashley Wittman, Shakopee
Ashley Wittman

Wittman defined what it meant to be a powerful hitter, delivering blistering kills with regularity. She was Metro Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009, racking up 1,036 kills, 543 digs and 87 blocks, and Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2009. Behind her, Shakopee won Class 3A titles from 2007 through 2009.

About this list

With high school sports reporter Jim Paulsen leading the compiling of names and accomplishments for consideration, members of the Star Tribune sports staff selected these 50 athletes after several rounds of voting and discussion as part of our recognition of the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

A note for clarity: We limited the scope here to an athlete’s success while competing for Minnesota high school teams. Two notable examples of how this played out: Lindsay Whalen, potentially on your Minnesota Sports Mount Rushmore, isn’t here, because her high school career and prep accomplishments, in our opinion, didn’t rank. And while Suni Lee’s Olympic moment is an all-timer, the St. Paul gymnast isn’t on this list either, as she didn’t compete in prep gymnastics.

Also, we used maiden names, those the athletes were known by in high school, and not married names.

Now it's your turn

We want to know what you think. How did we do? Did we leave off your favorite athlete? Did we overlook some athletes you think should be on the list? Let us know by going to startribune.com/yourpick and sharing your thoughts.

Selected responses from readers will appear in the Star Tribune and on startribune.com/sports later this week.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the number of high school track and field titles won by Carrie Tollefson. She won eight. The article also incorrectly stated the year and location when Tollefson ran in the Olympics. It was 2004 in Athens.