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Janice Olszewski -
One of the first sports to manifest the impact of Title IX gender equity was basketball. In the mid to late 1970’s, women’s high school basketball vaulted to a new level as top female athletes gravitated toward a sport that had long been a crowd pleaser on the male side. Athletes such as Denise McGuire of Pearl River and Jane Ronner of Clarkstown North were generating headlines and attracting college scouts with their hoops wizardry.

Then there was Janice Olszewski. No comparisons can be drawn because there was no one like Janice playing women’s high school basketball in the late 1970’s. Six feet two inches tall, solid as Mount Rushmore, Janice was an intimidating physical presence who was close to automatic when she got the ball in the low post. Defensively, woe betide the opponent who drove the lane for a lay-up only to see Janice looming, blocking her path, and altering shot selection merely by positioning herself in the paint. Those were exhilarating days, and Janice stood in the vanguard of the new era. “It was the beginning of the spark of women’s sports; it was finally coming into its own,” says Janice. “There were a lot of good individuals and teams, and the local coverage in the newspaper was very strong. It was exciting to be a part of that.” By the time she had concluded her high school varsity career, Janice had rewritten the Rockland County record book. She became the first Rockland schoolgirl to score 1,000 points and wound up with 1,520 points, which stood as the Rockland County record for nine years. “I’m surprised I held it for that long,” says Janice, who was coached by Dale Abling her junior and senior years, Julie Schaefer in her sophomore year, and Lonnie Dall as a freshman. Janice set the still standing Rockland County record for scoring average in a season with 30.4 points per game in the 1978-79 season. She scored 40 or more points in a game five times, 30 or more points in a game 18 times, and pulled down 282 rebounds in 20 games for an average of more than 14 rebounds per game.

Besides the seasonal scoring average, Janice also holds school records for free throws in a game (17) and season (137) and shares the record for field goals in a game (18).

Janice made the first team All-County teams her junior and senior years, second team All- County as a sophomore, and honorable-men- tion as a freshman. In addition to basketball, Janice played varsity tennis all four years in high school, doubles her first year and singles her last three years.

Janice earned a full scholarship to LaSalle University in Philadelphia, an NCAA Division I Institution, where she played all four years on the varsity. She was the first player off the bench her first three years and cracked the starting line up in her senior year. In her senior year LaSalle won the East Coast Conference championship to earn an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. Janice led the team in field goal percentage her junior and senior years. Janice now lives on Staten Island and has been a member of the FDNY-EMS squad for 22 years. She is currently a Deputy Chief of Division 5 (Staten Island/Coney Island). In 2003 Janice was a co-founder of the FDNY Center For Terrorism and Division of Preparedness. She was featured in the non-fiction book, Women at Ground Zero, (Stories of Courage and Compassion) that was published in 2002 and describes the experiences of women in emergency services during the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. Her sports activities are now limited to low impact sports such as golf and slow jogging due to a 2002 hip replacement.

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