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Collegiate rowers like UCO's Leslie Dixon learning sport on the fly

BY ED GODFREY Staff Writer egodfrey@opubco.com Published: October 1, 2011

After spending four years as a catcher for the University of Arkansas' softball team, Leslie Dixon is trying a different sport.

She will be rowing in her first race Sunday morning for the University of Central Oklahoma in the Head of the Oklahoma Regatta on the Oklahoma River.

“You have to have strong legs in rowing and a catcher has to have strong legs, too,” the Edmond North High School graduate said. “So I thought this might be something I would be good at.”

Dixon is typical of the members of women's crews at UCO, the University of Oklahoma and most collegiate rowing programs. They are filled with athletes from other sports who are learning to row at the collegiate level.

Dixon, who graduated from Arkansas in July with a degree in health sciences, is taking a few classes at UCO to qualify for a clinical lab program at a Tulsa hospital.

She walked on to the UCO rowing team at the urging of former Edmond North classmates Jessica Lawson and Kristin Philhower, both co-captains for the Bronchos' crew.

“I love being in the water, but it's one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life,” Dixon said of rowing.

Philhower played basketball for Edmond North and one season at Oklahoma Christian University. She burned out on basketball and transferred to UCO but missed being part of a team.

“I wanted to get involved in sports again,” Philhower said. “Rowing is the only sport in the NCAA that you can walk on and have completely no experience. You can go from having no experience and two months later be racing in something like the Head of the Oklahoma.”

UCO is the only NCAA Division II university that is competing in the Head of the Oklahoma, which concludes Sunday after a morning of racing.

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