DANFORTH, Maine — In 1975, a group of young ladies from a small school in northern Washington County earned a spot in the history books.
The East Grand girls basketball team, known back in the day as the “Vikettes,” became the state’s first Class D girls champions following the team’s 49-41 triumph over Richmond at the Augusta Civic Center.
The victory capped the first state tournament for girls in Maine, and it came three years after Title IX was enacted. East Grand went on to win three more titles (1979, 1982 and 1983) over the next eight years.
The team was inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame in Bangor in the summer, with memorabilia from that squad now on permanent display at the Cross Insurance Center. But members of the historic class were celebrated this week with a special ceremony and unveiling of a new trophy case dedicated to that group at the East Grand School.
Members of the 1975 champion team were Susan Brown, Kimberly Bartlett Codrey, Cindy Butterfield Pare, Renita Brown Dill, Christine Conlogue, Cynthia Diane Foss, Susan Gillis Shain, Norma Gilpatrick Goforth, Cindy Irish Griggs, Martha “Pep” Irish, Rhonda Rollins Irish, Patricia Page Johnson and Carla Springer Rollins.
“We didn’t know the significance of the event at that time,” said Susan Gillis Shain. “We played in the Katahdin Valley League and always played hard. In fact, we hadn’t lost a game in three years. Our coach came to us and told us about this thing called a state tournament and a gold ball. We thought that was wonderful.”
It was not until several years later that the significance of that moment really sank in, Gillis Shain said.
“It really was history being made, but as teenagers we didn’t really think of it that way at that time,” she said. “Of course we were excited and happy, but we just played in that tournament the way we always did — hard.”
During Wednesday’s ceremony, coach Dennis Codrey attended via Zoom with a message for his former club.
“I would like to thank everyone responsible for making this night happen,” Codrey said. “The 1975 Vikettes were an amazing group of ladies. They were successful on the court and as they have become accomplished adults, this group has been dedicated, unselfish, hard-working, smart and team players.”
He said he was blessed to be able to win the state’s first gold ball for girls basketball and was beyond honored to see his squad inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.
Captain Martha “Pep” Irish is the only member of the squad that has died, but her spirit and memory was alive and well with her teammates. “Pep really led our team that first year,” Gillis Shain said. “Her and Susan Brown were our senior leaders.”
Several members of the historic squad can still be found in the East Grand School because Shain Gillis, Rhonda Irish and Carla Springer are all employed by the district.
“We were all so very touched that the school wanted to honor us as well,” Shain Gillis said. “The pride they have for this team is amazing.”