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Seasons Canceled, Stars Find Silver Linings - Spring 2021

by Rich Tortorelli

Bride and groom at altar and walking down the aisle after vows and woman running race
Wedding photos of Macey and Sawyer Currie by Josh McCullock Photography

For Macey Currie, 2020 will go down as a memorable year.

During the worldwide pandemic, Currie married her longtime boyfriend, Sawyer, in an outdoor ceremony. It was the wedding they had always wanted—a small gathering with their closest family and friends.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Currie, formerly Cox, a junior runner on the OCU cross country/track and field team.

Currie was one of many Oklahoma City University student-athletes who will remember 2020 for what happened in their lives. In 2020, the coronavirus outbreak halted athletic events across the nation and stopped the seasons for the Stars’ winter and spring sports.

The competitive cheerleading, competitive pom\/dance, and women’s wrestling teams had already traveled to their national competitions when the NAIA sent the teams home last spring. The women’s basketball team had reached No. 1 in the national polls and hoped to defend their ranking, but the NAIA Division I Championship Tournament was canceled before any games commenced. OCU’s baseball, golf, softball, rowing, STUNT, and track and field teams had their seasons cut short. From March until September, the Stars didn’t compete. OCU resumed competitions when the men’s and women’s golf teams took to the course in the fall.

In light of the pandemic interruption, the NAIA announced that athletes would not be charged a season of eligibility for the 2020–21 academic year.

Without the thrill of competition, the Stars found other avenues to occupy their time. Many sought to better themselves as athletes and as people in many ways.

Many furthered their education with summer classes or took tests to enter graduate school. A few prepared to enter medical, nursing, or physician assistant school.

Vaughn Raney, a senior basketball player from Cashion, Oklahoma, prepared for and took the Medical College Admission Test. After scoring in the 82nd percentile, Raney secured interviews for the University of Kansas and University of Oklahoma medical schools. His ambition is to become an orthopedic surgeon.

“It’s the perfect career for me to be able to provide for my future family and simultaneously do something that really matters,” Raney said.

Cierra Foster, a senior chemistry and math major, performed research last summer through an online program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She calculated how elastic samples respond to stretching and relaxing after undergoing surface chemical reactions. A National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates grant funded the work.

“Doing this research helped me see what a graduate program would be like,” said Foster, an All-American wrestler at OCU.

Women wrestling on red mat
Cierra Foster won the 155-pound title for her first tournament crown in the Grand View Open in Des Moines in February. Foster conducted national grant-funded research from her home last summer. Photo by Kelsey Redmond of Grand View University.

Student-athletes spent the off-season branching out into new activities. Hannah McReynolds not only spent time learning recipes from her aunt, but she also started working on her Spanish speaking and Spanish sign language.

“My favorite part about cooking, specifically during this time, was using ingredients that I had never seen before, and cooking with family,” said McReynolds, a freshman soccer player from McKinney, Texas. “One of my favorite dishes she taught me was Pancit noodles with chicken — I did not realize how important it was to make noodles that perfect.”

Pom squad member Grace McLean helped create a documentary about her musical theatre class from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. McLean and her best friend had the idea to put together a film called “Lost and Found,” since their class couldn’t perform a senior showcase.

“My class and I spent countless hours filming clips that showcased our monologues, songs, and dancing,” McLean said. “We did this all while attending online school during a pandemic. In the end, the film came out better than we could ever imagine.”

Connor Burton, a freshman basketball player from Lamar Township, Missouri, worked on his nonprofit, Love4All, which sells hoodies and shirts to support disaster relief and fight issues such as hunger and human trafficking. He also picked up piano.

“I taught myself,” Burton said. “I love playing worship music, and I have started creating my own music just for fun.”

Since March, other student-athletes caught up on activities they don’t normally have time for. Some recovered from injuries, performed rehabilitation, and otherwise rested. Still others spent their time working jobs.

OCU student-athletes made memories in 2020. While Currie’s honeymoon was diverted from California to Arizona, her wedding went off exactly as she hoped.

“We are very private and family-oriented to begin with, so deciding on a small wedding was something we did before the pandemic even started,” Currie said. “I’m grateful to have experienced all of those things during crazy times of uncertainty.”

BY THE NUMBERS

21 OCU sports

275 OCU student-athletes

237 student-athletes in fall 2020 with 3.0+ GPAs

1 2020–21 NAIA Athlete of the Week*

27 2020–21 conference athletes of the week*

*Statistics as of March 29

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