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Rae Grellner is a seriously good player on defense — and the violin

Dressed in her basketball uniform and her team’s signature black knee pads, Grellner stepped to midcourt at the Big House. She didn’t have a basketball. She had a violin.
by Jenni Carlson Published: March 5, 2014
/articleid/3940146/1/pictures/2366891">Photo - Okarche basketball player and violinist Rae Grellner poses for a photo in the school gym in Okarche, Okla. on Tuesday, March. 4, 2014.   Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Okarche basketball player and violinist Rae Grellner poses for a photo in the school gym in Okarche, Okla. on Tuesday, March. 4, 2014. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

She was nervous.

But last season, when she performed the anthem before the finals again, she was an even bigger bundle of nerves. Not because thousands of people were watching her play violin, though.

“I was a lot more nervous for the game,” she said. “I just wanted to win so bad because the year before we lost it.”

Plus, Grellner was a starter last season after being a reserve the year before. But only a few minutes after finishing her beautiful performance of the anthem, handing off her violin and being introduced with the rest of her teammates, she nailed a couple of early 3-pointers that set the tone in a game that Okarche would win going away.

Grellner, by the way, isn’t much of a scorer.

“Defense, that’s what I do,” she said. “That’s what I love. I actually love it a lot more than offense.”

She’s averaging only 2.4 points a game this season, the lowest of any Okarche starter, but she beams as she describes what she does on defense. When Okarche plays a diamond-and-one, she is the one. She gets to chase and hound and guard the opponent’s star.

“Rae knows her role well, plays her role well,” legendary Okarche coach Cherie Myers said.

Even when Grellner plays the anthem, she quickly transitions into basketball mode.

“It’s a pretty good life lesson to learn,” Myers said. “You focus here, then you step across the line and go focus on something else.”

Most of the players at Okarche perform in all sorts of different arenas. They do mock trial. They raise livestock. They play other sports. They are encouraged to get involved, and at a small school, they have the opportunity to do a bunch of different things.

They can be good at them, too.

Rae Grellner doesn’t know if she’ll be performing at the Big House during the state tournament again this week. She wants to do it again, but she’s heard that the activities association would like her to play next week during the big-class tournaments.

After all, she played the anthem before a Thunder game a few weeks after state last March. Why not put her talents to use when the bigger schools are in town?

“But I really want to play for mine,” Grellner said. “It’s just special.”

Bigger, after all, isn’t always better.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at, follow her at or view her personality page at

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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