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Junior rowing programs on Oklahoma river producing top-flight talent

OKLAHOMA REGATTA FESTIVAL — The OU rowing team has been able to recruit top talent despite only having a program for five years. The Sooners are recruiting around the country and in their back yard.
by Ed Godfrey Published: October 4, 2013
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photo - Kayakers compete during the Oklahoma Regatta Festival on the Oklahoma River in Oklahoma City, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Kayakers compete during the Oklahoma Regatta Festival on the Oklahoma River in Oklahoma City, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Madison Wullschleger didn't think about earning her way to college through rowing when she first started the sport as a freshman at Edmond Memorial.

In fact, she didn't care much for the sport at first.

“I didn't know anyone and I didn't know what I was doing,” Wullschleger said. “It didn't click at first.”

Her parents kept encouraging her, though, after that first summer rowing camp at OKC RIVER SPORT and Wullschleger, a former gymnast, found her stroke, so to speak.

“Halfway through my freshman year I started liking it,” she said. “I started becoming better at it so I kept doing it. I liked how competitive it was.”

As part of the OKC RIVER SPORT Chesapeake Junior Crew last year, Wullschleger and her teammates finished fourth at the Head of the Charles in Boston, the largest head race in the country, against other junior crews (ages 13 through 19).

The Chesapeake Junior Crew led by Wullschleger also finished 12th at nationals. Wullschleger caught the eye of University of Oklahoma rowing coach Leeanne Crain, who has built the Sooners into a top 20 program in just five years of existence.

Wullschleger is now a freshman at OU and will be rowing for the Sooners Saturday in the Head of the Oklahoma, part of the Oklahoma Regatta Festival that continues through Sunday on the Oklahoma River.

“Maddie has tremendous potential and is already making an impact on the team this year,” Crain said. “She'll be racing in our second varsity eight this weekend in the collegiate eights races. We took notice of her during her senior year of high school.

“Being an athlete on the OKC RIVER SPORT team prepared her very well for the challenges of Division I rowing. She was a member of their top eight that enjoyed a great deal of success. She came to us well-coached and ready to compete when she arrived at OU this fall.”

OU's current roster includes four girls who are former members of OKC RIVER SPORT Chesapeake Junior Crews, including junior Ashley Carpenter who has consistently raced in the Sooners' top line-ups as a coxswain.

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by Ed Godfrey
Copy Editor, Outdoors Editor, Rodeo, River Sports Reporter
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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