Women's sports are an important part of the landscape-By Doug Gorman

Last Friday night in St. Joseph, Mo. the Clayton State women's basketball team completed an incredible journey, winning the NCAA Division II national title.

Until CSU wrote the final chapter to this incredible story, the only thing I knew about St. Joseph was outlaw Jesse James was shot and killed there Robert Ford.

When Clayton State walked off the court in Missouri with the championship trophy in tow, and owners of a mind-boggling 35-1 record, the rest of the world knew what I knew — this basketball team was not going to be stopped.

Head coach Dennis Cox's team didn't just beat opponents this season, it crushed opponents.

A pressing defense simply wore down opposing teams, and when the dust settled and the Lakers cut down the nets with their 69-50 victory over Michigan Tech in the final, the mission was complete.

The Lakers had rolled to 35 wins, capturing the national title with a margin of victory of more than 20 points this season.

It was one of the most compelling and exciting stories I have had a chance to report on in more than 20-years of working in the business.

The Clayton State women certainly made history, bringing the first national title to the school of more than 6,500 students.

I made one mistake when it came to reporting on this amazing feat.

The Lakers, in fact, were not the first women's basketball team from Georgia to win a national title.

That honor went to Berry College way back in 1975-1976 when it captured the AIAW small college national title. I was all of 11-years old.

That team was coached Kay James and won their national championship with a 68-62 win against West Georgia. Although located just a short drive from each other, West Georgia and Berry battled out in Ashland, Ohio in the championship contest.

Before the NCAA ruled the college sports landscape, the AIAW was the top governing body for women's college athletics.

My intention certainly wasn't to short-change Berry's milestone.

Thirty-five years ago, these women from Berry were trailblazing pioneers who helped pave the way for today's generation of women to participate in sports.

Now, women's college basketball has turned into a major event, played at hundreds of colleges and universities. Today players have opportunities for scholarships and media coverage.

Despite CSU's special moment, there were e-mails and messages sent to me wondering why we covered it?

That's simple, national championships in your own backyard don't come along every day. It's news, big news, and we are in the news gathering business.

There was a tone to some of the e-mails and web posting stating women's sports don't have a place in our paper or elsewhere.

These folks need to get over that backwoods antiquated idea.

Thanks to Title IX, women now have equal opportunities.

Now, young female athletes like my niece, Shelby, can play field hockey (popular where she lives in Louisville, Ky) and basketball with the same competitive fires that her younger brother Justin displays when he steps on the baseball field or basketball court.

As a sports journalist, I used to love covering the LPGA at Eagle's Landing Country Club. I'm waiting and hoping it returns.

The LPGA has produced some great champions in my lifetime starting with Nancy Lopez.

From the world of tennis, the Chris Evert-Martina Navratilova rivalry was one of the best ever. As a kid, I loved watching the two of them battle it out at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open.

Who would have ever thought they were the best of friends off the court.

There have been many great achievements in women's sports.

I can still remember sitting glued to the television set as the U.S. women's soccer team beat China in 1999 to win the World Cup. The game came down to penalty kicks as Brandi Chastain blasted the game-winner into the back of the net.

I can also remember back in 1984 when Mary Lou Retton stole the show at the Olympics, landing a perfect 10 on the vault. She was the first woman gymnast from the U.S. to win the gold in the all-around.

Her smile and bubbly personality made her a media darling, complete with her picture on a Wheaties box.

Now days, women like Danica Patrick and Milka Duno aren't just pretty faces in the world of auto racing. They are serious competitors who approach each race with one thing in mind—taking the checkered flag. Sarah Fisher, a one-time competitor, is now a team owner in a business dominated men.

I have enjoyed covering women sports during my career, and will continue to cover it with passion.

After all, women's sports have come a long way on the sports landscape—thank goodness.

(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Da)