A word so impactful and rewarding, it is commonly used to describe championship-winning athletes. Ones that break records and put their sport in a brighter light.
In the not even eight months I’ve been in Norman, I’ve seen OU athletes compete in numerous postseasons, win plenty of individual honors, compete for a handful of championships, and bring together sport-loving communities along the way. Within all of it were two team national champions in sports I’ve strengthened my knowledge of through them.
Women’s gymnastics was the first. I’ve come to learn about Norman’s rich and distinct gymnastics history, both in women’s and men’s, and it was so much fun attending their events and becoming a fan during their championship runs (the men finished as national runner-up). My mementos from this season included autographs from each gymnast, multiple items of apparel, and a fateful experience meeting some of their family members.
Softball is the second. It’s been an absolute blast being indoctrinated into the atmosphere that surrounds one of the deepest and most dominant teams in collegiate sports history. I intently watched the 2021 Women’s College World Series, where I innocently rooted for the underdogs instead of the Sooners. OU’s record-breaking roster made many fans then, but this 2022 season has been like a more-appealing sequel.
This year’s team didn’t just break many of the same records they broke last year, they broke even more sport-wide records throughout the season, including multiple WCWS records that have lasted decades.
A handful of their games were broadcasted live on national television, including being a playing member in the first college softball game to ever be televised on ABC. Multiple of their games in the WCWS broke event attendance records; to put that into perspective, yes, the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium is just up the road in Oklahoma City, but in comparison, that stadium can hold over 12,500 fans, where Marita Hynes Field can only take 1,378. It was incredibly rare to find a ticket under $50 to watch OU Softball play this season. Many of their home games costed over $100 per ticket.
Whether it was through autograph sessions, social media, licensed AND personalized memorabilia, or fateful experiences on top of parking structures, I was lucky enough to have my fair share of time with this team. They have fun like normal people, they are loving like normal people, but their superstar statuses elevate their level of celebrity within the community.
Read more about the teams' accomplishments from this article written by ESPN's Alex Scarborough.
The most-known name on the team is Jocelyn Alo, properly nicknamed the Home Run Queen. The individual records she broke grew as the season went on, and they are plentiful, but her background is the most badass part of her story. ESPN did a Cover Story titled “Oklahoma softball and the secrets behind the most dominant team in sports” in May, which you can read here. A statue in Norman is next in her Sooner sights:)
And how did it all cap off? By charging past Red River rival Texas in two of two games to capture their second-straight national title and fifth in the last nine seasons.
Work has been so insanely busy of late, but being able to lean on the success of these winter/spring sports has been a saving grace. It helps that I work for a spring/summer sport, but I will always cherish these moments, as they aren't made to be taken for granted. They are made to live on forever, just as these teams will here in Norman.