Tales of Transformation: A Rower and A River Change Through Riversports

A dry riverbed only a few short years ago, the Oklahoma River River has been transformed into one of the city’s crown jewels.  Photo ©2013 Lyann Valadez

A dry riverbed only a few short years ago, the Oklahoma River River has been transformed into one of the city’s crown jewels.
Photo ©2013 Lyann Valadez

Ask someone what Oklahoma brings to mind and Riversports is not likely to be the answer. More than likely, if not “tornadoes,” the answer will be stockyards, cattle, fields of wheat and enormous round bales of hay. However, thousands of rowers and kayakers from across the United States make their way to Oklahoma City throughout the year to race in events such as the annual Head of the Oklahoma rowing regatta, and International athletes compete at the Oklahoma River on a regular basis. The Corporate Rowing League has more than 40 teams who practice and race weekly.

Thousands of rowers and kayakers make their way to Oklahoma City to race in events ranging from the annual Head of the Oklahoma rowing regatta to the USA Canoe/Kayak Olympic Trials.
Photo ©2013 Lyann Valadez

Catherine Colbert was exposed to the world of rowing when her oldest daughter was rowing while attending Oklahoma State University (OSU).  “I wanted to have something similar, to have a similar interest so we could have things to talk about,” Colbert says about her decision to take up rowing. “And so I applied to be on my corporate team, and never got picked. And it wasn’t until my daughter graduated from OSU that I was picked. And that’s how I was exposed to it. And after one season I was hooked”.
The Oklahoma City skyline looms beyond the Chesapeake Boathouse, part of the Oklahoma City Boathouse District. Photo ©2013 Lyann Valadez

The Oklahoma City skyline rises beyond the Devon Boathouse, part of the Oklahoma City Boathouse District.
Photo ©2013 Lyann Valadez

Colbert explains that Corporate teams open membership to anyone who wants to try. “And they have three categories. They have a Novice category, and Intermediate category, and a Master’s category, based on how many seasons you’ve been on the water. So, every company that is involved will have a Novice team. I’m on a Corporate team and I’m on a Master’s team, so I’m on 2 separate teams. Master’s is for anyone who’s beyond college age. So it has nothing to with your experience level, it’s whether or not you’re still in college. Colbert began on the Novice team, “and during my first Novice season we had someone that was taken out with an injury on the Intermediate team, so they bumped me up to the Intermediate, which was a bit nerve racking to be with all these people who knew what they were doing. Then I went and joined the Master’s team and I’ve stayed on the Master’s and the Corporate ever since. It’s been two years now”. At 5 a.m. Monday and Wednesday, Colbert does an hour of cardio at the gym, and she rows Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. “And then I row Saturday mornings”. It’s awesome! You get addicted, you really do.”
Inside the Devon Boathouse Photo ©2013 Lyann Valadez

Inside the Devon Boathouse
Photo ©2013 Lyann Valadez

The Oklahoma River and OKC Boathouse Foundation were named a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site in July 2009, and Olympic hopefuls in both rowing and canoe/kayak now train at the OKC National High Performance Center. Adult and youth rowing teams are on the river daily, and each year corporate athletes along with collegiate, masters, juniors and elite rowers and kayakers, participate in the OGE NightSprints held on the Oklahoma river after the sun goes down.
The Finish Line Tower of the Oklahoma on the Oklahoma River. Photo ©2013 Lyann Valadez

The Finish Line Tower on the Oklahoma River.
Photo ©2013 Lyann Valadez

                  According to Sherry Burnett, Director of Public Relations for the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, Oklahoma City pioneered NightSprints, which have become an annual tradition as part of the Oklahoma Regatta Festival. Permanent lighting allows night racing with the flick of a switch and brings another exciting element to the Oklahoma River and Oklahoma Boathouse District. Burnett states, "It's an amazing venue, and there's really no place like it in the world."  

Questions? Comments?