OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — They meet at the Freede Gym once a year, oars in hand.
Freshmen to seniors, mens team and womens.
The entire Oklahoma City Rowing team gathers to start their fall season.
Coach Mike Knopp calls them to attention.
“All right.,” he shouts. “Everything we do together. We run together.”
From the campus to the Oklahoma River is about four miles.
Senior Mike Pitts has been on three previous Oar Runs already.
He knows the way.
Mike also carries a small video camera to help document the journey.
He raps, “OCU yeah, we runnin cause we rowin.”
He runs up to a team mate and asks, “How’s the run going for you so far?”
“It’s good,” comes the response.
A little ways further he asks a freshman rower, “Hey, new girl. What’s your name?”
“Evva,” she responds.
Pitts turns that into music too.
“Evva, forEvva, forEvva and Evva,” he shouts.
And at one more interval Pitts does a quick interview with another team mate.
“Hey Mike,” yells the team mate. “How’s it going?” asks Mike.
“Good Mike!” “How’s the run?” “Fun Mike!” “How’s the weather?” “Awesome Mike!” “Great.”
Yasim Burhama, on the other hand, came to Oklahoma City from Tunisia less than two weeks prior to the Oar Run.
He likes to talk but still needs some translation to his new home.
During the run through downtown Mike Pitts asks his new team mate for a friendly kiss on the cheek.
“Come on,” he coaxes.
Yasim manages a quick kiss in stride prompting raucous laughter.
“You see?” shouts Mike. “We’re all brothers here.”
Most of the rowing team does come from places outside the city.
This annual run serves a dual purpose, to showcase the athletes but also to show crew members what Oklahoma City is all about.
They only stop in a few spots along the way.
The most important stop is at the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial.
If this is where a whole community can learn to pull together, coaches point out their team can too.
Coach Knopp says, “We give them some perspective of what really is ‘the Oklahoma Standard’, what this place is all about. There’s something special here.”
It’s a hot day even for these athletes.
Along the route OCU Stars run into all kinds of people.
The river and the team’s home at the Devon Boathouse stand at the bottom of a long hill.
When they finish, the idea of pulling together will mean a lot more.
The OCU Stars mens and womens crew host the Head of Oklahoma Regatta, their first real test of the season, on October 5.