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Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day: Two Bemidji area residents recognized

Two Bemidji area residents received recognition this week for their accomplishments in promoting and advancing girls' and women's sports.

The Minnesota Coalition of Women in Athletic Leadership presented awards to 21 athletes and sports leaders Wednesday in the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda in St. Paul as part of the 23rd annual Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Ruth Howe of Bemidji received a Special Merit Award. Bill Kane of Cass Lake received a Breaking Barriers Award.

"The Special Merit Award is one of our top awards," said Kelly Anderson Diercks, a member of the coalition.

The award, said Anderson Diercks, honors pioneers in girls' and women's athletics.

Howe, who received one of four 2009 Special Merit Awards, is a retired professor from Bemidji State University, where she taught in the health and physical education department and coached basketball and tennis, according to a biography from the coalition.

She served as the director of the U.S. Curling Board in 1989 and helped write a proposal to the U.S. Olympic Development Committee for funding to help curling become an Olympic sport, which it did in 1998.

Howe has continued to support women's athletics by initiating the BSU Women's Golf Tournament, which was the first women's athletic department fundraiser. She also supports Beaver Pride and the BSU Legacy Society as well as an endowment that promotes women's sports.

She is a member of the BSU Athletic Hall of Fame and the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Athletic Hall of Fame. She has been recognized with the Mu Chapter Woman of Achievement Award and the Senior Sports Award by the Bemidji Area Sports Foundation.

Meanwhile, Kane, who was one of 14 people to receive a 2009 Breaking Barriers Award, is an assistant coach for the Cass Lake-Bena High School varsity girls basketball team and a sixth-grade teacher at Cass Lake-Bena Middle School.

The Breaking Barriers Award celebrates individuals or organizations that have broken barriers, overcome challenges and/or strive to provide athletic opportunities for girls and women of all races, ages and levels of ability, according to the nomination application.

Kane has been a guide for Take a Kid Fishing since 1988, according a biography from the coalition. He also was a 4-H softball coach from 1990-1994. From 1992-2002, Kane was a coach and raised funds for the Cass Lake-Bena Junior Olympics volleyball team, including a trip to a national tournament in California.

He was also an assistant girls basketball coach from 1995-1998 at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School in Bena, and throughout the past 16 years, he has coached girls basketball at Cass Lake-Bena at various levels, from elementary to high school.

Additionally, Kane has been the Cass-Lake Bena weight room supervisor since 2002.

The awards ceremony Wednesday in St. Paul was conducted in conjunction with the 23rd annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day.