Celebrating CK’s Female Athletes, Builders, And Legends
By Veronica McFadden
International Women’s Day
This is a special Women’s Recap as we celebrate the stories of our Chatham-Kent athletes, builders, and legends. This list could not include everyone or else it would be a book about CK athletes but if you like to learn more about these women check out your local sports hall of fame as they are filled with an extensive list of amazing female athletes, builders, and legends. Also, for those wondering where they can watch these athletes perform, you can always attend the game live or watch them online.
Jana and Logan Kucera – Basketball
The sisters from Chatham are following in the path of Wallaceburg native Jodie Christina as they are tearing up the Ontario College Athletic Association and have both recently been named as the OCAA Women’s Basketball All-Star Team.
Logan Kucera has been an absolute machine on the floor. She has led all Saints this regular season with 86 two-pointers made and is third with 38 three-pointers made. Logan also was dangerous from the line. Making 51 of her 65 free throws and she average 16.4 points a game! In the playoffs Logan has turned it up a notch. Averaging 13 points in her 2 games and going 75% at the line she is leading the way for the Saints in the playoffs.
Jana Kucera like her sister is a monster from the inside the key making 51 two-pointers but it is outside of the key that gives her the edge over Logan. Jana knows how to drain it as she has made 38 three-pointers. In the regular season she averaged 15.1 points per game and having a free throw percentage of 0.700, Jana is a game changer and she is showing up in the playoffs. In the 2 games that St. Clair has played, Jana has put up a total of 32 points! Most of these points are coming from outside of the key as her 3s game continue to be dangerous in the playoffs.
The Kucera women aren’t just making it rain but they are also pulling down some dangerous rebounds in the D zone. There is nothing stopping these ladies from showing the OCAA that they are ready to continue their dominance in the coming years. I highly recommend that you catch a St. Clair game as the Kucera’s put on clinic every time they walk on the court.
Larissa McFadden – 15s Rugby
Larissa McFadden started out as a hockey goaltender and didn’t even know that rugby was a sport that she could play until high school. During her time as a goalie Larissa excelled and won many awards and medals with Dresden Jr. Kings becoming one of the only female goalies to play on the boy’s rep team as well as the Chatham Outlaws.
In grade 9 Scott Morkin and Jeff Phaneuf saw a hockey player that they knew they could turn into a rugby player. McFadden would join an already powerful Ursuline College Chatham (UCC) with other hockey players like Delaney Taylor, Shelby Heyink and Kat Heyink. In her first year she worked hard away from the pitch to prove that she deserved time on the pitch. She took the time to learn everything about the game of 15s and spent even more time finding the holes in her game and tried to improve on them. In grade 11 McFadden showed up and started to play a bigger role on the UCC women’s rugby team. She increased her leadership and kicking skill from her summer spent with the St. George London rugby club.
In 2017, McFadden would join St. George teammates Savannah Emmott and Justiana Mulder in trying out for Ontario Junior Blues U18 team. McFadden would be named to the U18 Women’s ‘A’ team and would be representing Ontario in the Canadian Summer Games. During the games McFadden would record 5 tackles per game and would successful complete 6 offloads. Although she didn’t record any tries her defensive and support game is what allowed the Blues to stomp down the pitch and get the points.
Larissa’s hard work paid off during high school as she was scouted by the University of Ottawa and Wilfried Laurier University. She would choose to wear the colours of her favourite football teams, the yellow and purple. As a rookie McFadden would start in her first game and would get her first try. Over the last couple of years, she has grown into a strong defensive player for the Golden Hawks. In her first game back from a concussion, against York University, she proved yet again that she one of the hardest backs as she battles for every yard. The work that she has put into perfecting her craft earned her a spot in the Dresden Sports Hall of Fame as Female Athlete of the Year.
Shona Branton – Swimming
A natural swimmer at 5 years old Shona Branton from Port Lambton has just kept on swimming. During her time with the Sarina Rapids Swim Club Branton’s bested her personal best in 2019 at the Ontario Junior International meet.
Shona was a talent to watch when she first started to swim competitively. In 2008 Brenton was jumped onto the swimming when she swam the 25m Freestyle in 23.03 seconds! 10 years later Shona Branton would be invited to compete in the Canadian Swimming Nationals in Montreal, and she finished 3rd which was good enough to qualify for the Trails in the 50m breaststroke.
In the 2019-2020 season Branton improved on her 7 of race times. The 50m butterfly (32.06), 100m freestyle (1:02.82), 50m breaststroke (32.36), 100m butterfly (1:11.61), 100m breaststroke (1:10.50), 100m backstroke (1:14.91), and the 200m medley (2:33.63). The 200m medley and 100m backstroke personal best happened at the WAC Border City International and the 50m butterfly happened at the Short & Sweet Long Course Meet. But the remainder all happened at the Ontario Junior International. This season Shona Branton continued to improve and was rewarded with the Eldon Griffith Memorial Award for Athlete of the Year in the Wallceburg Hall of Fame.
Holly (Law) Dodd
Holly Dodd is not only a builder but also a legend. She was inducted into the Dresden Sports Hall of Fame as an athlete as she played with the Guelph Gryphons, but Holly Dodd personally inspired me to step up every day for female athletes and create a space for them to live out their dreams.
I thank Holly Dodd and her classmates for stepping up and creating a space in high school for females to play. I played all 4 years of my high school career with the Lady Cards and they are some of my fondest memories. To have this space to showcase the best of Dresden, Bothwell, and Dawn Euphemia players in one school on one team was something that I will never forget. From the regular season and playing local schools to representing Dresden and the surrounding area when we went away for tournaments and people would ask where is Dresden, I knew that Holly Dodd was the reason why we got the chance and I am forever thankfully of my time spent with the Cards.
Although LK currently does not have a women’s hockey team the jersey’s and the energy will sit there and wait until a new generation of local players step up and fill the halls of LK with the excitement of their previous win or talks about a tough loss. That is what LK does and without Holly Dodd and her fellow classmates stepping up LK would a hole in its identity as Dresden is a sporting community and we support our female athletes at all levels.
1985 – 1986 JMSS Girls Basketball
This team was the definition of star power. Not only did they have future shot-pot star Juli Elders, but they also had one of the best to grace the courts, Carrie Carleton. This team would also include two players that played for the University of Windsor, Margaret Piggot and Kelli Norris.
This strong team of 10 players looks great on paper and they played like an all-star team would play. Going 32 wins and 2 losses this team was one to feared when they stepped on the court. It wasn’t just local CK teams that feared them but as gold medalist in 3 of their 4 tournaments this team was able to out play every team that they played against. In the St. Clair College Tournament these power women put up an average of 22.5 points a game and in the Seneca College tournament they would beat 3 “AAA” schools. The JMSS girls were ranked as an AA school and to beat 3 teams from what I can assume were from the bigger just goes to show that Chatham-Kent play with passion and never give up.
They were a well oiled machine on offense with Carleton and Elders throwing it down but also could play some really solid defense as in the White and Pink tournament, held in Chatham, the hometown team showed up and didn’t allow anyone to reach 30 points against them.
This team is part of the builder’s category because they accomplished the first OFSSA Championship win by any Kent County girls’ team in any sport. They have left a mark on Chatham-Kent forever. Carrie Carleton continues her work at JMSS showing and proving to her players that if you work hard you can achieve any goal. This team of 10 players will always be the talk of JMSS and Chatham-Kent as there was nothing that these women couldn’t do, and they will forever be known as the team that dreamed and achieved.
Dresden Minor Hockey Moms
A group of hockey moms came together to change my hometown arena. As a young hockey player, I remember the female dressing room as a small room with 2 small wooden benches against the back and right side wall and on the left side wall was the athletic bed that the away team would use when playing the Dresden Jr. Kings. It wasn’t until the hockey moms came together to gives an actual room with a full bathroom. This was a just the tip of their iceberg of their impact on women’s game in Dresden.
The Dresden Minor Hockey Moms were a major part of getting the Dresden girls teams started and thriving into a success. As a member of the Girls program in my Pee-wee years as well as my first Bantam year. The first time that I played on an all-girls teams it was a strange feeling to walk into a full dressing room and being able to get dress with the team. This team felt stronger and more connected than any other team that I played on and it created the sense that we could continue to grow as this team and play in a white and maroon for the rest of my hockey career.
Although the Dresden women’s team is no more, the legacy of starting a women’s hockey team in our small community of Dresden had some of the hardest working players on that team and those women went on to play some incredible high level hockey and were proud to represent the community of Dresden.
Marion (Watson) Stanton- Baseball
Marion Stanton is a legend at baseball. A lifetime Chatham resident she showed the world her talent as an all-star youngster in the All-American Girl Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). Before her AAGPBL debut Staton was a well-known star at the age of 12 when she played for the Chatham Ladies Silverwoods team. This team would prove to the starting steppingstone for Marion Staton to etch her name into the history books.
In 1939 Staton would win the Ontario Championship with her Maple City Laundry team. During this time Staton led the way at the plate as she had a 0.513 batting average. Batting average is the number of hits dividend by hits. For every 10th time at bat Staton would hit 5 balls. So she was hitting half the time that she at bat. Which is an incredible feat as there are few baseball and softball players that can match that.
1946 would be a year that got Marion Staton into the big league. Currently playing with the Windsor Diary team in the Michigan – Ontario League, which was a step below the AAGPBL. The talented Chatham native was scouted into the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League as a left-handed pitcher and batting right-handed.
During her time in the AAGPBL Staton would play 8 games for Peoria Redwings in 1946 and the expansion team Muskegon Lassies. Staton time in the AAGPBL as she broke her leg twice within a span of a year. The first break came in Cuba during training camp and the second came a year after during a motorcycle accident. Marion Staton would end her professional career in 1949 due to injuries.
Although Staton was done on the diamond she just started her career as a builder off the diamond. Staton would come back to Chatham and continue her athletic, but at a more leisure pace. She played golf twice a week at the Ridgetown Golf Club and the left-handed pitcher was an incredible bowler as she carried a bowling average of over 200.
Marion Staton left her name on the game of baseball worldwide and locally. In 1988 Staton along with the other members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Frame in Cooperstown, New York. She would receive another high honor in 1998 when the Canadian members of the AAGPL were inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall Fame in St. Marys. Locally Staton has a plague in Tecumseh Park, where a 12-year old baseball player would become a professional pitcher and an outstanding batter. Marion (Watson) Staton will never be forgotten in Chatham as she paved the way for females to dream about playing professionally and she will forever be a local hero that got to show the world how good and passionate our Chatham athletes are.
Juli Elders- Shot-put & Weightlifting
Juli Elders is one of a handful Chatham athletes to represent Canada international. A star athlete in high at John McGeorge Second School (JMSS) were 6 of her records are still intact, 3 in shot put and 3 in discus. Students and parents got to Elders soar as a student athlete in Chatham. She won more Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSSA) medals than any student athlete in history at John McGeorge. She won 6 medals in track and field, 2 in basketball (gold and bronze) but shot put was where she shined. Winning 3 golds, 1 silver, and 1 bronze medal at OFSSA, and she would add a silver in discus. In 1988 and 1989 Elders won back-to-back JMSS Female Academic Athlete and Athlete of the year.
Elders was scouted by many top NCAA schools for her talents in shot put, but in the end, she chose to stay in Canada and attended the University of Manitoba. While at the University of Manitoba Elders continued her streak of outstanding athletic feats. In the 1989 – 1990 track and field season Juli Elders would storm into the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (now known as USports), scene and leave with a silver medal as well as a new University of Manitoba record. Elders also won her spot in the Bison Sports Walkway of Honour for her great athletic and academic work.
1990 Juli Elders become one of the few female Chatham-Kent athletes to say that they have represented Canada. She would suit up in the red and white for the International Junior Summer Games in Columbus, Ohio where she placed 5th against the top athletes from Canada, USA, Mexico, and Cuba. This would not be the last time that Elders wore the maple leaf on her back, as she got the call again to represent Canada in 1993 for the Espoir Team. This team is designed for the up and comers in the track world, and that is what Elders was. She dominated the CIAU circuit and was being recognized on a national scale. While on the Espoir Team her highest placement was 5th in shot put and 6th in discus.
In 1993 Elders would add weightlifting to her extraordinary athletic feat resume. She would make her first appearance at Canadian Olympic Weightlifting Championship and finish 2nd overall. A 1st place in clean and jerk and a 2nd in snatch.
Juli Elders would finish her incredible career with a bronze medal at the Canadian Outdoor shot-put championship and would get to represent Canada one more time as a member of Canada’s National Track Team at the World Student Games in Fukuoka, Japan. Elders would compete against 160 nations and she would compete in her shot-put and she placed 16th with a throw of 14.19m. She would just miss the cut-off of 15.00m.
Juli Elders left her mark in Manitoba as she was one of the best in shot-put at the University of Manitoba, but she also continues to leave a mark in her hometown of Chatham. As one of the first females to represent Canada Elders is an athlete that many still look-up to today. If she can see it, she can be it and that is what Elders have become. We have been able to see Elders show Canada and the world that she is the best and now inspiring Canadian athletes from Chatham-Kent know that they can do it.
Jodie Christian- Basketball & Slo-Pitch
From 1985 – 1987 Jodie Christian was an all-star on the St. Clair College Saints basketball team. A kid from Dover Center was making big waves in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association scenes. She grew up playing basketball, field hockey, baseball, and hockey but it was on the basketball court that Christian shined.
While competing for different teams representing different parts of Chatham-Kent Christian found her touch playing for the St. Clair College Lady Saints. She currently sits 12th on the all-time leader score. The Lady Saints and Christian would win bronze at the Ontario College Basketball Tournament and would be named the OCAA Athlete of the week as well as the OCCA All-Star and Intramural Athlete of the Year.
In the 1990s Jodie Christian won the Ontario Provincial championship with the Sarina Starfires and the Windsor Wildcats. As well as winning 3 Canadian Slo-Pitch Championship.
There was nothing that Jodie Christian couldn’t do and with the drive and a whole community she became at star at the university/college level. She paved the way for the Chatham athletes to shine at St. Clair as the St. Clair currently has two Chatham athletes, Logan and Jane Kucera.
Today we celebrate these women for their feats of athleticism and for their inspiration. If she can see it, she can it be, and Chatham-Kent stands by this. I personally have been able to grow watching some all-stars as well as walking by faces in my school, in the area and just listening to others tell their stories and that is why for International Women’s Day I would like to thank all of these incredible women and many more that I didn’t get to mention. They created a space in Chatham-Kent where young athletes can look up at them and see what they have accomplished. Even though we are smaller community we will always have our female athlete, builders, and legends back as they strive for their goals.
To the Aryns, Lindsays, Brittanys, Paiges, Mallorys, Zoes, Janelles, Emilys, Brookes, Kellys, Alisons and many more former female athletes this International Women’s Day I think back to times when we were sitting in the locker room waiting for the game to start or on the bench as the next inning was coming up, or the bus ride to faceoff against our rivals in Pain Court. These kids were ready to play no matter what sport with a passion that I will always remember and memories that I will never forget. I think about what if these girls knew that their futures would be amazing and awe-inspiring to the next generation. Our banners, trophies, and medals still grace the halls of our arenas, schools, and local sport organizations but what these young kids didn’t know is that their moments will live on forever and that the next generation will be able to see the silver medal provincial winning OWHA banner that continues to hang in the Ridgetown arena and know that they can win gold. Or the incredible year with the Lady Cardinals as we beat Pain Court in a thrilling comeback game is forever in the halls of LK. The most important thing that these young women did was always show up and play with their heart and these memories will live on in the next generation as we continue to push the limits and create more room and opportunities for female athletes, coaches, refs, and builders in Chatham-Kent.
One more extra special to my parents who allowed me to make the switch from figure skating to the rough game of hockey and play one of the stressful positions to watch as a parent, a goalie. They never told me no and always told me that if I put the work in, I could strive for my goals. Thank you for always believing in me and installing me with the thoughts of no matter what gender you can be great at whatever you put your mind to.