For 16 years, Janet Young Eline has stood at the front of a classroom of students at New Oxford Elementary School teaching English as a second language.

"I work with students who are limited in English. I've taught students from 13 different countries," Young Eline said by phone recently during a lunch break at the school. "A majority of my students have been Hispanic."

A York City native, Young Eline first learned Spanish as a student at York Catholic, where she graduated from in 1970. Having developed a fondness for the language, Young Eline decided to double major in Spanish and education at Immaculata College, a Roman Catholic school just outside of Philadelphia.

Janet Young, during her days at Immaculata.
Janet Young, during her days at Immaculata.

Not many of her students are aware of the magnitude of the accomplishments Young Eline is most known for during her time at Immaculata. Those accomplishments later resulted in her being inducted into the Immaculata Athletics Hall of Fame. There was also a movie made a few years ago about the historic 1972 national champion Immaculata women's basketball team. Young Eline was the point guard on that team.

"Yeah, they know that I played basketball in college and they think it's the funniest thing," Young Eline said. "I don't think they understand to the full extent as my colleagues do."

She's still shocked, however, when people bring up those Immaculata teams from four decades ago. She's even more surprised at the latest honor, perhaps the pinnacle in all of basketball, bestowed on those teams.

It was recently revealed that the Immaculata teams that went 60-2 from 1972 until 1974 and won three consecutive national championships will be part of the 2014 class inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Aug. 8 in Springfield, Mass.

"Oh, my gosh, it's amazing that this is happening. Back then I don't think we could ever have imagined that we'd be inducted into the basketball hall of fame," Young Eline said. "When we went to college it was for college. We just happened to all excel in basketball. We were all team captains in high school. The team chemistry was just there."

Janet Young Eline, as she now appears.
Janet Young Eline, as she now appears.

Those Immaculata Mighty Macs essentially became the first women's basketball dynasty, beginning when they beat a powerhouse West Chester team to win the title in the inaugural Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women tournament in 1972 — it would be another 10 years until the NCAA women's basketball tournament made its debut.

Mighty Macs: What made this noteworthy were the hurdles the 1972 Immaculata team encountered to get to the title game. The school's gymnasium burned in a fire and the team ended up practicing at a smaller rec area that wasn't even a college facility, according to a Gettysburg Times article from 2011.

A popular talking point of the championship team is the fact that it had no uniforms, and instead was forced to wear hand-me-downs from the field hockey team — blue wool tunics. It could only afford to fly eight players to the national title game in Illinois. They would discover afterwards that the tickets were one way, and they had to find somebody to pay for their flights back. The magical 1972 season was captured in the movie "Might Macs," which was released in 2011 and is currently streaming on Netflix.

Why has it only been in recent years that those Immaculata teams have gained national popularity with those in the basketball world?

"Well, that's a good question. I don't think women's sports were as prominent then as they are today. A lot of that has to do with Title IX making things equal in sports for men and women," Young Eline said.

As part of the education amendments to the Civil Rights Act, Title IX first became law in June 1972, shortly after the Mighty Macs won their first national title.

Three years have passed since Young Eline last saw all of her former Immaculata teammates at the movie's red carpet premier in Philadelphia, but she still stays in touch with them. Some of those teammates went on to coach at major NCAA Division I powerhouses: Theresa Shank (Rutgers), Rene Portland (Penn State) and Marianne Crawford (Southern California).

York Catholic, from player to coach: Young Eline instead returned to her alma mater, York Catholic, where she taught Spanish and coached the girls' basketball team for two seasons from 1974 to 1976 before marrying her high school sweetheart, John Eline.

"We played them (the teams in York County). There was also at that time the Catholic league," Young Eline said. "I know York Catholic played teams in the Diocese of Harrisburg like Delone Catholic and Bishop McDevitt. And we played Lancaster Catholic."

This was also around the time when postseason tournaments for girls' basketball began. The York-Adams League first crowned a girls' basketball champion in 1976 — York Catholic went 12-2 in league competition that season to finish tied with York High for second in the standings behind first place Dallastown (14-0).

"We didn't have those tournaments like that at the end of the season when I played. When I came back to teach they did," she said. "And basketball was the only (girls') sport there (at York Catholic). There was intramural volleyball, but none of what they have now like field hockey or soccer."

The Elines later had two children and moved to Gettysburg in 1984 when John Eline found a public information job in the area — he is now the director of emergency services for Adams County.

Young Eline went on to become the athletic director and girls' basketball coach at St. Francis Xavier, a small private school in Gettysburg for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, before serving as an assistant coach for the women's basketball team at Gettysburg College for two seasons. She taught English as a second language for the Adams County migrant program before landing the job at New Oxford Elementary.

Young Eline says she's not sure how much longer she wants to teach and hasn't given much thought to retirement. She spends her free time walking the trails at the nearby Gettysburg National Park and occasionally watching her seven grandchildren, the youngest 3-years-old and the oldest a senior at Gettysburg High School.

"She was just accepted to Immaculata," Young Eline said of her oldest grandchild. "One of the first questions, once they found out who she was, was 'do you play basketball?' She doesn't. But she'll be going to college for academics."

Just like her grandma originally set out to do more than 40 years ago.

— Reach John Walk at jwalk@yorkdispatch.com.