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Chickasaw ballplayer finds calling on OU rowing team

CONTRIBUTED BY Jennifer Jones, Media Relations.

NORMAN, Okla. – Katie Roberts, a Chickasaw citizen from Santa Clarita, Calif., spent her afternoons on the basketball court throughout her high school career. As a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, she took a leap of faith and tried something different. Now she spends her mornings in the water as a member of the OU womens’ rowing team.

“I had no idea that rowing was a college sport a few months before coming to OU,” Ms. Roberts said. “One night, after my last high school basketball game, I was upset that I was never going to play a sport again, especially since I was already set to go to OU.

“My dad and I were sitting on the couch that night after the last game and he asked if there was any way I could walk on to a team at OU and we came across rowing. I found out they hold walk-on tryouts for girls without experience. I was immediately interested and Googled rowing for hours that night, filling out a questionnaire online to get my name out to coaches. A few days later, they reached out to me and said I would be a good fit! I was named a recruited walk on and I don’t think I was ever more excited for anything.”

Rowing practice for Ms. Roberts starts at 6 a.m. at the Devon Boathouse, a $10 million practice and training facility in downtown Oklahoma City on the banks of the Oklahoma River. She leaves the OU campus at 5:30 each morning, and dedicates about 20 hours a week in training and physical conditioning. She returns to campus by 9 a.m. each day for classes.

“We row on the river at the boathouse and sometimes we stay on campus and practice at the training center facility where we do workouts on the rowing machines, various core circuits and other exercises together,” Ms. Roberts said.

OU has its own state-of-the-art rowing practice facility on campus with a 16-seat “moving water” row tank, large workout area and sports medicine and hydrotherapy room. The center opened in spring 2014.

The water sport has two seasons, one in fall with 4k races and a spring season with a series of 2k races. Last semester, Ms. Roberts competed in two races and hopes to be invited to more in future seasons. She credits her training with getting her into best shape of her life.

“Rowing is definitely the most physically demanding sport I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. “It takes a lot of determination, focus, time, hard work and energy, but it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever participated in.”

Ms. Roberts is majoring in sports management and plans to pursue sports law after graduation.

“My dream is to work in the professional sports industry, whether it be the NFL or NBA, and my goal would to become a sports agent or a team attorney,” she said.

She stays on track with her studies and connects to her Chickasaw culture through a Chickasaw Nation program, the Chokka’ Kilimpi’ Recruitment and Retention program.

“I really enjoy getting together with the Recruitment and Retention team a couple of times a month, they are so welcoming and helpful,” she said. “They answer any questions I have regarding scholarships and keep me involved in the various events they hold on campus.”

She has also received higher education support through Chickasaw Nation Higher Education program grants, textbook grants and clothing funding.

“Being an out-of-state student, tuition can be pricy, but I am so blessed to receive support from the Chickasaw Nation,” she said. “It definitely helps my family to have those funds available.”

Though most of her day is spent at rowing practice, class and study, Ms. Roberts attends a weekly youth group, is a member of the sports management club and participates in Chokka’ Kilimpi’ cultural and social events. Access to the Chokka’ Kilimpi’ program, she said, helped her stay connected as a Chickasaw citizen.

“Chickasaw citizens are known to be strong-willed, passionate, hard-working people and I believe being a Division 1 athlete encompasses these traits,” she said. “Having the title of an athlete at OU, I work hard to be the best leader and role model I can be both athletically and academically. I hope to represent the Chickasaw Nation well.”

The Chokka’ Kilimpi’ Recruitment and Retention program is active on three college campuses in Oklahoma - OU, the University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma City Community College. Education coordinators are available to Chickasaw students for academic monitoring, funding assistance navigation, career counseling and cultural and social event connections.

Students can apply to be part of the Chokka’ Kilimpi’ Recruitment and Retention program by calling (405) 767-8940, emailing CK@Chickasaw.Net or visiting www.Chickasaw.Net/CK.

For more information about Chickasaw Nation Higher Education programs, visit www.Chickasaw.Net/Highered.