Boyd Street Magazine November 2023

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BOYD STREET November 2023 • Issue 11 • Volume 22

Moore Norman Aviation

New Heights


Sooner Women’s Hoops

New Norman Transit Center

New Faces, Same Pace Changing Service



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what’s inside



13 What’s Happening

Norman’s community calendar for November

14 Changing Service

City of Norman celebrates the opening of new transit center.

18 A Legacy of Service

Assistance League plans gala to benefit local students.

22 “Save the Music”

Norman High School choir students perform with classic rock band Foreigner.

26 New Heights

Moore Norman celebrates the opening of new aviation program.

38 New Faces, Same Pace

Sooner women’s basketball looks to keep playing up tempo with new players.


44 Coming Soon

Team Norman makes progress on proposed entertainment district.

on the cover

48 Timberwolves Winter Sports Previewing basketball, wrestling and swimming


52 Tigers Winter Sports


Previewing basketball, wrestling and swimming

November 2023 • Issue 11 • Volume 22

56 Myths & Misconceptions Local doctor shares what’s new in medically assisted weight loss.


Should I use Cash, a Debit Card or a Credit Card While Traveling?


62 Joe’s Wine & Spirits Viva Espania

Moore Norman Aviation

New Heights

64 What’s Eating Norman: The Brown Bag

Capt. Anthony Riddles


New Norman Transit Center

30 Golden Drive

Dillon Gabriel leads the Sooners on a drive for the ages at the Cotton Bowl.

A couple of seasoned restaurateurs are backing a popular new venture.

66 Service Spotlight


Sooner Women’s Hoops

New Faces, Same Pace Changing Service



Cover photo by: Mark Doescher




Mark Doescher


Roxanne Avery | Lindsay Cuomo Kathy Hallren | Shannon Hudzinski Rae Lynn Payton | Chris Plank

ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES Trevor Laffoon - Perry Spencer - Tanner Wright -


Casey Vinyard

BOYD STREET Boyd Street Magazine 2020 E. Alameda Norman, Oklahoma 73071 Phone: (405) 321-1400 E-mail: Copyright © Boyd Street Magazine

Any articles, artwork or graphics created by Boyd Street Magazine or its contributors are sole property of Boyd Street Magazine and cannot be reproduced for any reason without permission. Any opinions expressed in Boyd Street are not necessarily that of Boyd Street management.


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City of Norman Celebrates the Opening of New Transit Center


he City of Norman commemorated the unveiling of its new central transit hub with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 12. The hub, situated at 320 E. Comanche St., marks a significant milestone in the city’s long-term public transit plan, initiated in 2021.

transit center, leading to the formulation of a 10-year initiative named the Go Norman Transit Plan. Prospective projects encompass Sunday bus service, increased frequency on specific routes and expansion into east Norman.

“The community has long desired modern amenities at the central transit hub, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be able to now provide them,” said Shawn O’Leary, director of public works. “Those improvements include an indoor waiting area, water bottle filling station, public and staff restrooms and a staff break area.”

The Norman Transit Center opening coincided with the implementation of route modifications to the entire route network.

In 2019, the city assumed responsibility for transit operations from the University of Oklahoma, which continues to oversee campus transit maintenance. “We took the first year to work out the kinks,” shared Taylor Johnson, transit and parking program manager. “Then we focused on a long-range plan that included public input.”

In August, the city also introduced a pilot transit program. Known as Norman On-Demand, this micro-transit service offers late-night and Sunday service to designated areas of Norman. Rates start at $2 for the first passenger and $1 for each additional passenger. The Norman On-Demand app is available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

A consultant played a crucial role in identifying pivotal areas for improvement, including alterations to the route network and the establishment of the new

More information about the recent changes and the Go Norman Transit Plan can be found at www.tinyurl. com/NormanTransitChanges.– BSM

14 | November 2023

“In public transit, we have to weigh coverage versus convenience so there were some hard choices to make,” Johnson said. “The recommended bi-directional route network aligns with the city’s needs today.”

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Assistance League Plans 54th Annual Gala to Benefit Local Students


ince 1974, the members of Assistance League Norman have hosted an annual gala to fund Operation School Bell®, a clothing closet dedicated to providing dignity to local children with every donation. This year’s event, themed Studio 54, is set to commence at 6 p.m. on Dec. 8 at the Riverwind Casino. Attendees are encouraged to don 70s glam attire for an evening of revelry beneath the glow of a disco ball. Anticipation is high, with an expected turnout of over 400, promising cheerful camaraderie benefiting a good cause. “(The gala) is an ideal time to find out what the (Assistance League) actually is and the ways we help in the community,” said Katsey Johnson, gala chair. As the Assistance League’s main fundraiser, the gala garnered more than $100,000 last year. The average cost to clothe each child is $130, with the number served varying each school year. Last year, the organization helped more than 1,000 students in Norman and Little Axe. Disbursement takes place in the fall once school starts and goes through November, with an opportunity to circle back in the spring for any new students joining the district or for those who have experienced special circumstances, such as housefires, loss of a parent or other major tragedies. Each participant receives essential items including a winter coat, pants, shirts, shoes, a grooming kit, new undergarments and, when possible, seasonal items like hats and gloves. Kim’s Alterations provides complimentary tailoring services as needed. “All work is done by community volunteers,” said Kris Booze, past president and aid to Johnson. “Referrals are made through school counselors. Every student also receives a tote bag or backpack and a stuffed animal.” Clothing donations of new or gently used items can be made directly to the Assistance League but Operation School Bell® would not be possible without the gala. Tickets are $140, with $65 being tax deductible. The evening’s program includes a cocktail hour and silent auction at 6 p.m., followed by a plated dinner catered

by Abbey Road Catering at 7:15 p.m. Post-dinner, a cash bar and live auction will take place. Tables seat eight and attendees can choose their seating on GiveSmart at “You don’t have to be present to bid on silent auction items or purchase tickets for the bar cart,” Johnson said. Assistance League is an all-volunteer philanthropic organization, dedicated to serving children and families in need. Other community service activities include care kits for women’s shelters, providing companionship at adult day centers, and coordinating the collection of teddy bears for first responders to hand out. The organization is centered on helping others, with opportunities starting in middle school through their Assisteens® program. For more information about the Assistance League and Operation School Bell®, visit – BSM

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“SAVE THE MUSIC” Norman High School Choir Students Perform with Classic Rock Band Foreigner


lassic rock band Foreigner performed at Riverwind Casino in October as part of the band’s farewell tour. For more than a decade, Foreigner has invited local high school choirs to join them on stage. “They do this as a service to the community and to raise awareness about budget cuts happening to music programs in schools,” said Stephania Abell, director of choirs at Norman High. MTV executive John Sykes started VH1 Save the Music Foundation in 1997. The foundation’s mission is to “help students, schools and communities reach their full potential through the power of making music,” according to their website. The Tigers’ choir department received a $500 donation for their participation in the concert. “The donation goes into our day-to-day operations fund and is pretty much already spent,” shared Abell. “We spend a lot of money on sheet music and classroom activities.” For students involved in choir at Norman High, this concert was an opportunity to take their performance skills to the next level. 22 students from various choirs came together to perform Foreigner’s best-known hit, “I Want to Know What Love Is” in three-part harmony. Senior Adria Howard said, “It was so cool to perform with such big artists.”

22 | November 2023

“I have performed in front of large crowds before but not at that level,” she said. “Since there were several classes involved, all of us coming together, working together was a big thing for me.” Fellow choir member sophomore AJ Waldron shared that he was also able to enhance his performance skills. “My parents are big classic rock fans and to be able to perform with a band I grew up on was amazing,” he said. Abell shared that COVID had a significant impact on Norman High’s choir department. She said that participation has just started to return to pre-pandemic levels. “We took a hit and that really did affect our numbers,” she said. “Finally, things are getting back to our new normal. Half of our choir are freshmen and two-thirds are freshmen and sophomores. We are going to get to travel this year and that is a good recruiting tool.” The choir’s destination remains a secret for now, but Abell said students are eager to hit the road and show off their skills. Abell encourages the Norman community to visit a local public school performance. “I encourage everyone to attend a performance at your local school,” she invited. “These kids would love your support and you’d get to see what’s going on in our public schools.” – BSM

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Moore Norman Celebrates the Opening of New Aviation Program


ith the theme song from the movie “Top Gun” playing in the background, dignitaries and others gathered in an airplane hangar on the campus of Moore Norman Technology Center to celebrate the opening of its aviation maintenance center training program. The hands-on training program, offered at the center’s Franklin Road campus, provides students with a direct path to a career in aviation and aerospace, Oklahoma’s second largest and fastest growing industry. Glen Cosper, president of the MNTC board, was among those who spoke at the Sept. 25 ribbon cutting ceremony. He thanked current and former board members for their contributions to the program and compared it to a “Tom Brady 90-yard touchdown drive late in the game.” “You don’t know how long it will take, you don’t know how it will happen, you don’t know how many players will be involved,” he said. “But you do know we will score, and our fans will be happy with the outcome.” MNTC teamed with industry partners and state and local leaders to develop the training program in response to the region’s growing demand for workers who are certified by the Federal Aviation Administra-

26 | November 2023

tion in airframe and powerplant mechanics. Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, worked closely with Cosper and Lee Dow, the center’s director of aerospace and technology, to get the program off the ground two years ago. Rosino said the aerospace and aviation industry contributes approximately $44 billion annually to Oklahoma’s economy. Cleveland County, meanwhile, is home to more than 28 related companies, including 19 in Norman. “One of my biggest concerns, as a south Oklahoma City representative, was Will Rogers (Airport) is right here, Tinker (Air Force Base) is right here, we have Max Westheimer, and Moore Norman had no aviation program,” he said. “I just couldn’t understand that.” Rosino recognized the program’s inaugural class, which started with 17 students in August and will take 18 months to complete. “Those students are the future of aerospace and aviation in the state of Oklahoma, and it’s starting right here in Moore Norman,” he said. Students will learn how to conduct pre-flight inspections, perform routine aircraft maintenance, and repair airframe and powerplant (engine) components,


“Those students are the future of aerospace and aviation in the state of Oklahoma, and it’s starting right here in Moore Norman,” Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City said. and receive Federal Aviation Administration certification upon course completion. Careers in the field offer starting salaries of $60,000 or more annually. The program will not only help meet the growing workforce demand, but it will also allow many Cleveland County residents whose jobs were negatively affected by COVID-19 to receive the training they need to return to work, according to the county. In April, county commissioners approved a request for $1 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for the training center, which includes classrooms, training labs, top-of-theline equipment, aircraft components, the hangar and a tarmac. A red and white twin-engine Beechcraft airplane was donated to the in-person program, which will prepare students to become certified in three different areas – General Aviation, Airframe and Powerpoint. At 56, Bret Smith is the program’s oldest student. Aviation maintenance is the latest in a series of careers Smith said include blacksmith and railroad track welder. “So far, it’s great,” he said. “Being the industry it is, it’s held to a higher standard. The railroad was highly regulated, but this is even more regulated due to the gravity of what we are working on here.” Things came easy in high school for Westmoore graduate Danny Garcia, 19, who took Advanced Placement courses and exams but wasn’t “a big studier.” The aviation program presents a far greater challenge, Garcia said. “Now I have to have good study practices,” he said. “You really have to be sure you know the material because in December, when we take the written exam for the FAA, you have to know all of this information. You can’t not know it because if you do, you’ll fail.” In addition to the ARPA funding, various grants and Ad Valorem taxes will help pay for the program, which will expand to include high school students in 2024, according to Dow. “Today is truly icing on the cake,” he said. “It is just fantastic what it’s going to mean to the economy, the community and the work force.”– BSM




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n a season littered with big moments, Team 129 provided one of the biggest and most memorable wins over Texas in the Red River Rivalry.

A calendar year filled with constant reminders of the disappointing 2022 season was erased, thanks in part to an incredible goal-line stand and a game-winning drive that will not soon be forgotten. A Saturday filled with vindication, validation and celebration helped solidify that the Sooners are not only on the right track but well ahead of schedule. “In all my years of coaching, I’ve never been a part of one like that,” head coach Brent Venables told his team during the post-game speech in the locker room. “The ups and downs, the highs and lows, the adversity, the gotta-have-it moments, the turnovers, the big plays, the hearts, the guts, the toughness.” The Sooners showcased it all. In the end, a playmaking ability allowed the Sooners to erase a year of questioning and disappointment.

THE CRAZINESS “Last year was an embarrassment,” Venables said of the Red River loss in 2022. “My hands are all over that.” Historically Oklahoma is not a program that stays down for very long. Its 696 wins since the end of World War II are the most in the country. The Sooners have had 27 seasons of at least 11 wins which is the most all-time, and outside of a stumble in the mid-1990s, Oklahoma has always been solid. The struggles in 2022 came at a time when Oklahoma was on the cusp of a move to the powerful Southeastern Conference and no moment seemed to sting more than a 49-0 loss to Texas. Venables attacked the offseason with a desire to improve the roster to best prepare the Sooners for a moment like the first Saturday in October. He brought 63 new players into the program this offseason through recruiting and the transfer portal and throughout the offseason preached of the improved competitive depth. It worked. The new-look Sooners not only started the season undefeated, but even found a way to overcome as wild of a first quarter the Cotton Bowl has seen in a while. On the second play of the game, Sooner cornerback Gentry Williams picked off a Quinn Ewers pass to force the first of three turnovers the Sooners would get on the day. Trailing the Sooners 7-0, Texas ran a first-quarter fake punt for a 1st down. Later in the same drive, on a 4th down play, Texas running back Savion Red took a direct snap and completed a pass to Gunner Helm, who was stripped by Key Lawrence. While called a fumble on the field, it was reviewed and overturned.

Photos by: Mark Doescher

All that happened in the first quarter alone. Add a Kendal Dolby red zone interception for the Sooners, a blocked Sooner punt that Texas turned into a touchdown, a lengthy review that wiped out a big Sooner return in the first half on a lateral and a potential Sooner touchdown pass that was dropped. At the end of the first half the game, the Sooners led 20-17 at the half. But bigger moments were still to come. “The first quarter, I don’t even know if I’ve watched football like that, but you’ve got to stay even keeled,” Sooner center Andrew Raym said. “It goes back to our preparation with Coach Venables and the way we run practice. We have a constant chaos in our practices so when we get in those moments, it’s nothing different for us.”

30 | November 2023




The Sooners were prepared thanks to the way they had trained and approached this type of moment in the offseason. “This game was unlike any other,” defensive end Ethan Downs said. “There were highs, lows, a big momentum game. Big plays at the right time. Every week, we’re going like it’s our Super Bowl.”


As the game progressed and tension grew, the anything-can-happen feel took over. The game’s true defining moments took center stage in the 4th quarter. With the Sooners up 27-20 to start the quarter, Texas pushed the ball all the way to the 1-yard line and was mere inches away from tying the game. “This is where you don’t yield,” Sooner radio analyst and legendary linebacker Ted Lehman said on the Sooner Radio Broadcast as the Longhorns prepared for 1st and goal. “It’s on the one-yard line. You just continue to make them snap it again.” The Sooners stuffed Texas running plays on first and second down. “Make them snap it again, every time,” Lehman preached from the booth. “Make them snap it again.” On third down, the Sooners once again stuffed a Texas running play short of the end zone. “It’s called lining up and trying to whip the man in front of you, then getting off blocks and tackling the ball,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said afterward. “That was a big deal because we had some guys getting off blocks, gang tackling, that allowed us to have a great goal-line stand.” On 4th down, Texas decided to go for it. Toby Rowland’s radio call told the story. “From the 2… 4th down…quick throw caught on the slant by Worthy, folded up… did he get in? I don’t think he got there. I don’t think he got there!” Rowland recounted. “The Sooners turned away Bevo on the goal line. They had first and goal from the 1 and the Sooners turned them away!” A team that ranked near the bottom of red zone defense in 2022, turned away one of the top offenses in college football on four straight plays from the 1-yard line. “At the end of the day, in a situation like that, it comes down to heart and how bad someone wants it,” Sooner linebacker Danny Stutsman said. “How bad a team can really come together and generate a push. I think the guys up front did a tremendous job all four snaps, just giving it all they’ve got one snap at a time.” “That’s something that as a defense we’re very proud of,” Oklahoma linebacker Jaren Kanak said. “That’s something that we pride ourselves in, being able to do something like that.” Three running plays to Jonathan Brooks netted -1 yards and a pass to Xavier Worthy came up just short. 32 | November 2023

“They’ve had an aggressive mindset,” Venables said of his defense. “We’re playing physical, aggressive, because of all their hard work off the field. They’ve put a lot of time on their own. I’ve told these guys this several times, leadership is going to drive this football team. Coaches can’t play. Players decide if they want to be successful and do what it takes. I know what they’re capable of.” “(We proved) we’re real competitors,” defensive end Ethan Downs said. “We’re here for all of it. It’s what we expected. It’s why we’re here.”


The battle did not end after the goal line stand. Sooner quarterback Dillon Gabriel had been fantastic for the Sooners, but the Sooner offense stalled in two key moments at the end of the game. Oklahoma missed a field goal on the ensuing drive after the goal line stand and Texas scored 10 unanswered to take the lead, 30-27 with 1:17 to go in the game. “On the sideline, we were saying this is it, this is the moment you live for,” Andrew Raym said. “This is what we worked for right here. We want this. We want to go win the game. It was all confidence from the offensive side.” Lehman summed up the way every Sooner fan felt as the moment presented itself to the Sooner quarterback and the Oklahoma offense. “Well DG, see if you can answer,” Lehman said on the radio broadcast. “1:17, no timeouts, field goal to tie, touchdown to win, this is what we’ve all been waiting for here.” “A chance for one of those drives we talk about forever,” Rowland added. The drive started from the 25-yard line with a dart to Drake Stoops for a first down. Without a timeout, a quick pass to Jalil Farooq and a powerful juke moved the ball into Texas territory. One snap later, Gabriel hit Stoops again as he stepped up in the pocket for a gain of 28 yards. After three snaps, the Sooners found themselves inside the Texas red zone. On 1st down from Texas’ 20-yard line, Farooq was once again in the middle of a big play when Texas was called for pass interference on a pass intended for Farooq. In four plays, the Sooners had pushed the ball from their own 25-yard line to the Texas 6. Farooq and Stoops were responsible for every receiving yard on the drive to that point. “Just to go back to like 365 days since we had this game, just us every day working out with Coach (Jerry) Schmidt,” Farooq said, “We’ve been in there putting in work consistently. So, I just thought back to those days. Make plays when I can, every opportunity I get I take advantage of it.”


After a short Gabriel run, the Sooners faced 2nd and goal from the 3, with the clock ticking.

The first catch that Nic Anderson had in an OU/Texas game was by far the biggest of his career.

“27 seconds, Anderson in motion… 23 seconds,” Rowland said as he described the scene. “Gabriel has the football, looks to throw, he’s under pressure… lobs to the endzone TOUCHDOWN! Nic Anderson touchdown! Dillon Gabriel, a legacy-making drive.”

“Me and Stog actually ran into each other, and I was the one that came open,” Anderson said. “I saw the ball. That’s the last thing I remember. And then just seeing the fans and looking into their eyes, it was a crazy, electric moment.”

One minute, two seconds, 75 yards. History.

“He was fearless,” Venables said of Gabriel’s pose. “I don’t put any limits on what Dillon can do. He’s playing as confident as anybody on our team right now.”

“That’s what we practice week in and week out,” Gabriel said. “Just proud of everyone coming together, controlling the chaos, and just dialing it in. That’s big-time football and something you dream of as a little kid, so just being part of it is something special, especially with these guys in that locker room. I love every single one of them.” On the game-winning play, off the line, it did not necessarily go as planned. But it worked. “I saw the guy off the edge,” Sooner Tight End Austin Stogner said of the game-winning play. “I was like, ‘I know he’s coming,’ so we had that guy out there and me and Nic kind of like ran into each other and I think it threw the linebacker off. I think it was the perfect storm. That guy came down, I was like, ‘If I can get that corner on me, then (Nic’s) going to be wide open,’ so he came on me and he was open.” 34 | November 2023

THE FALL OUT As the Texas Hail Mary attempt came up short, the Sooners picked up an incredibly important win for not just the 2023 season but for the Sooner football program. And at the heart of it all was the calm, cool quarterback who led the Sooners right down the field in the biggest moment of the season. “He’s the calmest guy I’ve ever been around at the quarterback position,” Venables said. “He’s got great belief in the players around him. Incredibly humble. You don’t see him ever tooting his own horn. He’s always trying to compliment and call someone else up. He’s been one of the most consistent players in our program.”

All totaled, the Sooners registered season highs in rushing yards (201) and sacks (five), while allowing only one sack. Texas entered the game allowing just 94.6 rushing yards and 1.8 sacks per game, averaging 2.6 sacks per contest. Defensively, the Sooners collected three turnovers, including interceptions on each of Texas’ first two possessions. But Texas scored 30 points — 7 on a blocked punt for a touchdown — and racked up 527 yards of offense. Venables still sees many areas where the Sooners must get better. “Again, there’s a lot more that was good than not, but we’ve got to focus on the things that we can get better at,” Venables said. “And they’ll be the first ones to tell you there’s a lot, especially on defense.” The win over Texas changed a lot of opinions around the country about where Oklahoma is as a program. Heading into the Texas game, there was a lot of noise about what happened the season before and where Texas was more SEC-ready than Oklahoma currently was. “There’s a redemptive piece to it, but not to me personally,” Venables said. “It’s this team and this program and what this program has stood for a really long time. They got a chance to get their pride back. That was a tough moment a year ago. I’m happy they could get a moment like that because they work for it. Celebrate hard, don’t celebrate long.”

While just a moment, it was a signature moment of the Venables era, a game against your archrival with so much on the line including a match-up where both teams are undefeated for the first time since 2011. “This is a team that has grown incredibly close over the last several months,” Venables said. “These guys have worked hard at that. That doesn’t just happen. There’s got to be a lot of intentionality. Relationships take a lot of work. We’ve challenged them. We’ve nurtured that.” Team 129 faced pressure unlike many teams at Oklahoma over the last 20 years. After the first losing season since 1998, this team and staff were tasked with being better while relying on a handful of returning players and a long list of newcomers. The Sooners checked another goal off their list by winning back the gold hat. Now, the pursuit of perfection continues. “I love watching young people respond and believe. Our guys have an unshakable belief. I know that,” Venables said. “I can’t brag enough about our players, just their toughness, their leadership, their effort, their strain, their love for one another. I love what we’re building. “There’s no limit to what this team can do. And no excuses either.”– BSM



New Faces Same Pace


s the Oklahoma Sooners prepare to tip off the 2023 women’s basketball season, the defending Big 12 Champions will have a much different look. Last season, the Sooners featured one of the most experienced rosters in college basketball and had the same five starters in every single game. But in year three of the Jenni Baranczyk era, while the Sooners’ talented roster will have a different look, the upand-down, fast-paced style that has personified Oklahoma women’s basketball is not about to slow down.

Photos by: Mark Doescher

The start of the Baranczyk era was special for Oklahoma. The fast-paced, high-scoring attack has resulted in a combined 51 wins over a two-year stretch, the most wins in back-to-back seasons since the backto-back Final Four trips of 2008 and 2009. The Sooners have proven to be a team that never is out of a game. OU has come back from double-digit deficits 12 times to win under the leadership of Baranczyk, including three times against ranked opponents. The Sooners are no strangers to winning close games - they’re 9-0 in games decided by one pos-

38 | November 2023

session under Baranczyk, winning on a last-second shot five times. Despite losing several key contributors, Baranczyk is excited about what the Sooners have for the 23-24 season. “We have a lot of work to do, but we have such a good group,” Baranczyk said. “It’s been fun to watch the leadership come along, watch the team start to gel together. “We graduated so much a year ago and had so much to celebrate in terms of coming off the conference championship. But you know, this team has been really driven and really motivated. Honestly, it’s been a lot of fun.” The term key contributors might be a bit of an understatement in trying to quantify what the Sooners lost with the graduation of Maddi Williams, Taylor Robertson and Anna Llanusa. Robertson became the first woman in NCAA history at any level to make 500 career 3-pointers. She broke Kelsey Mitchell’s record in one fewer game than it took the Ohio State product to set the record. She finished her career with 537 career 3-pointers. Maddi Williams became the first Sooner and 31st player in the nation since 1999 to eclipse 2,000 ca-

BY: CHRIS PLANK reer points, 850 rebounds and 300 assists in their career. Llanusa passed the 1,500-point mark last year after overcoming injuries to finish her incredible career. The trio of Llanusa, Maddi Williams and Robertson all rank in the top 12 in all-time scoring at Oklahoma, with Maddi Williams and Robertson inside the top three. “I love them and miss them and will always keep in touch with them,” Baranczyk said. “I feel like every team that I get the privilege to coach, I feel like I coach them harder and harder and harder. My favorite thing about coaching is seeing what young people can see in themselves. I love it.” While replacing the record-setting trio is a challenge, the returning core for the Sooners is solid. Skylar Vann returns after becoming the only back-to-back winner of the Big 12’s Sixth Player Award. In 202223, Vann was the only player in the country to average 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds without a start. “I don’t know if I fully understood her full recruiting process,” Baranczyk said of Vann. “She signed late. She didn’t have D1 offers in the early signing period. When that happens, they’re never a Preseason All-Big 12 and look at what she’s been able to do. “Skylar has just worked… in practice, out of practice on her own, just working on the mental part of her game. It has been fun to be able to watch her grow. I don’t know if there’s a better story.” Vann is joined by Liz Scott, Neveah Tott, Aubrey Jones and Beatrice Colton as the five returning Sooners who averaged double-digit minutes last season. Scott and Tott started every game last season. Scott, a powerful presence in the post, set career highs in points, rebounds and assists last season and has continued to improve. “I’ve loved her evolution in terms of her leadership,” Baranczyk


cause, to me, your biggest growth is always between your freshman and sophomore year and you can see her projecting in the right direction.” Returning players like Reyna Scott and Kierstan Johnson along with Kennady Tucker figure to be key parts of the Sooners rotation this season along with a slew of newcomers who have made an immediate impact. Among those potential breakout players is Peyton Verhulst, who spent the second half of last season with the Sooners. After transferring from Louisville, Verhulst couldn’t participate in games last season but was around the team and has the potential to make a mark as a major piece of the Sooners’ attack. “Everyone’s going to love Payton. What Payton does so well is she just reads the game. She plays the game and she’s never about the glory,” Baranczyk said. “She can score in a variety of ways. She’s really deceiving on the defensive end in terms of her length. But when you watch her play, when she’s in her element, she’s good. She creates so much for other people, whether she has the ball or not.”

said. “She shows up every day. She’s one of those players that you can really speak the truth to even when it’s hard. She allows that to motivate her. She embraced the grind. Confidence is action.” Baranczyk labeled Tott, the returning starting point guard, as one of the best point guards in the league. Tott started every game and had career highs in points, rebounds and assists. Jones returns after her first season in a Sooner uniform where the Iowa State transfer was one of just 10 players in the country to make 40 3-pointers with less than 100 attempts. Jones figures to see increased minutes with the graduation of Robertson. And then, there is the leading candidate for breakout player for the Sooners, Beatrice Culliton. The 6-foot-3 sophomore was named to the 2023 Big 12 All-Freshman team after playing in all 33 games last season and averaging just under five points and three boards per game. She became the first OU freshman center to make the All-Freshman Team since Courtney Paris. This year, Culliton has shown an increase in her leadership ability. “She didn’t think we really wanted her to score last year because we had so many other options,” Baranczyk said. “I’m so excited about this season be40 | November 2023

But perhaps no player has generated as much excitement as Sahara Williams. A five-star recruit, according to ESPN, Sahara Williams was rated by ESPN and Prospects Nation as the No. 23 overall player in the country. She was named the fourth-best wing in the nation by ESPN and averaged an impressive 21.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.2 steals per game as a senior at Waterloo West High School in Iowa. Sahara Williams earned McDonald’s All-American honors in 2023 and won a gold medal for Team USA at the 2022 3x3 World Cup. “I love playing fast. Scoring in the first eight to nine seconds of the shot clock is what I want to do,” Sahara Williams said of her fit in the Sooner system. “Scoring in transition is my best ability. I like to run the floor. I like to get up and down and make the opponent on the other end uncomfortable.” For Baranczyk, she knows the potential in Sahara Williams and is excited to see her develop over the season. “She brings physicality, she brings athleticism… those intangibles that she brings has already started to elevate some of our practices,” Baranczyk said. “When she was in 3 on 3… I don’t know if there was a more fun player to watch just in terms of her sheer competitiveness.” Despite losing three legendary pieces, the 2023-24 Sooner women’s basketball team potentially features a deeper rotation and an always exciting and energetic brand of basketball. While the Sooners continue to prepare for the move to the SEC, this year’s team has a chance to find themselves once again in the mix for a Big 12 Championship.– BSM

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COMING SOON Team Norman Makes Progress on Proposed Entertainment District


ince the Sept. 6 announcement of Team Norman’s proposed entertainment district at Rock Creek Road and 24th Ave NW, many Team Norman partners have been working with public officials to move the plan through the formal approval process. Team Norman will provide regular updates to Boyd Street Magazine readers throughout the approval process. A formal request letter was sent on Oct. 4 to City Manager Darrel Pyle and City Attorney Kathryn Walker to place the item on the City Council agenda at their earliest convenience. Over the last few months, city and county officials recommended changes to the design of the district. Suggested changes impact the cost of the project and have to be analyzed and then incorporated into the project analysis. Also during that time, multiple independent organizations with experience in restaurants, retail, sports facilities, hotels, meeting/convention centers and entertainment districts have been engaged by Team Norman to provide their expertise in evaluating this transformative destination development project. These organizations have provided their economic development, finance and planning expertise through thousands of feasibility and economic impact studies, leading to the development of over $20 billion in dynamic community projects nationwide. So, while there are still a few puzzle pieces that need to fall into place for Norman’s proposed entertainment district to reach fruition, here is a list of essential things to know about the project:

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1. For every $1 of public funding, there is an expected return on investment of nearly $4 in private funding. The public funding will not come from Norman’s general fund and these new revenue sources will be generated by the entertainment district development itself. The beauty of this development is that it will be built on land that currently generates zero property taxes or sales taxes for schools and local government. 2. Once funded, the project itself will create thousands of jobs and new homes for thousands of citizens at all income levels. These properties will generate new property tax revenues that do not exist today. 3. The economic impact of these jobs and spending will create new revenue to Norman’s tax coffers, business expansions and residential quality of life. The sales throughout Norman will be multiple billions, and that’s good for everyone. 4. If you support affordable housing, you will agree that Norman needs more homes. Economists know the reality of supply and demand. The formula is less supply + more demand = less affordability. This de elopement brings more quality housing to Norman. 5. What happens to the LLoyd Noble Arena? – Importantly, it belongs to the university; it’s their decision and is unrelated to our proposal. Besides, Lloyd Noble was built pre-ESPN and is no longer an “experience” worth getting off your couch. Norman’s new performance venue is for


The beauty of this development is that it will be built on land that currently generates zero property taxes or sales taxes for schools and local government. Norman, for Cleveland County, for Oklahoma! OU estimates a calendar schedule that only utilizes this venue approximately 28% of the time. That means approximately 72% of the time, the venue can be promoted to attract new concerts, new theater plays, new equestrian shows, or new local business expos. None of these are happening at Lloyd Noble now. 6. Pundits will try to distract you with references to the SEC. Don’t fall into that trap, either. This entertainment district is rooted in economics. But we also know that the measurements do not account for hidden, intangible economic benefits or the improvements in actual quality of life experience that this mixed-use development will bring to our community. That said, when the legal process allows Team Norman to present publicly, we will be ready to answer questions about the project and SEC. 7. This proposal is the only option to generate any significant sales tax for Norman on arguably the most valuable property between OKC and Dallas. Norman lives and breathes on sales taxes. Without an anchor performance venue, the millions in private sector investment evaporates. This proposal isn’t about the SEC. It’s not about Lloyd Noble. It’s not about UNP. It’s not even about OU. It’s about the heart and soul of the Norman community and whether we want to stand on our own as the third largest city in Oklahoma. Team Norman has seven proposals in the works for projects in various parts of Norman - east, south, downtown and Campus Corner. This performance venue is the first important brick in the rebuild of Norman, but it’s certainly not the only one. Did you hear the parable about the bricklayers? When the first bricklayer was asked what he was doing, he said, “I’m laying bricks.” When the second bricklayer was asked what she was doing, she said, “I’m building a wall.” When the last bricklayer was asked what they were doing, they said, “I’m building a cathedral.” Team Norman is looking at the whole of NorMan with collaborative partners who understand the difference. For accurate and up-to-date information, please visit



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Boys Basketball Norman North head boys basketball coach Kellen McCoy hopes his group can start the 2023-24 campaign playing like they ended last season. After a slow start, Norman North finished with a 12-14 overall mark. The Timberwolves were 8-3 down the stretch run of last year. “I think that this group is going to surprise some people this year,” McCoy said. North will be led by senior point guard Noah Jones. The 6-foot-3 point guard started all of last season and will once again anchor the show for the T-Wolves. “(Noah Jones) was good for us last year, making plays, handling the ball,” McCoy said. “He does a great job of getting to the basket and finishing at the rim and finding shooters on the perimeter.” Hezakiah Green is another player to watch on the wing. The 6-foot-3 junior saw plenty of floor time a season ago and will be expected to take another jump. “His skill set is improved. He’s shooting it really, really well. He should be a big threat for us,” McCoy said. Other juniors to watch include Luke Bauman (6’2”), Max Moser (6’2”), Rylan Phillips (6’4”) and Monte 48 | November 2023

Hines (6’5”). Hines will be counted upon to give the T-Wolves a presence that can score in the post and a good rebounder on both ends of the floor. Seniors Abdulla Sandhu and Drew Morris are two other shooters North will rely on and senior Jackson Talley will provide some more depth inside. McCoy likes the fact that his team has more length than in seasons past and thinks it allows for some different defensive looks than previous years. Offensively, North should be able to effectively stretch the floor, attack the basket and throw it down low when need be.

Girls Basketbal The Timberwolves enjoyed a 13-win improvement last season over the year prior. Under the direction of head coach Al Beal, the T-Wolves finished 17-11 and advanced to the Class 6A state tournament. After a breakout season, Beal isn’t worried about a letdown in the encore performance. “They are very eager to prove that what they did last year was not a fluke,” Beal said. “Sometimes when you have somewhat unexpected success, the next year kids aren’t as hungry. But they’ve been putting in the work.”

BY: JOSH HELMER North returns its top two playmakers from a season ago in junior guard Seleh Harmon and junior forward Olivia Watkins. “They’ve always been hard workers and put in the time,” Beal said. “The thing that’s impressing me is they never really had to lead because last year we had three clearly defined leaders in our three seniors. But, they have learned to grow into that leadership role. They’re both skilled offensive players and they now bring a certain confidence and swagger.” Beal highlighted junior guard Whitney Wollenberg as another of his team’s new leaders. The T-Wolves also add move-ins Lydia Plummer from Norman and Julieta Diaz from Westmoore. “They added size that we were missing last year,” Beal said. “That size is definitely going to help us, in addition to the toughness.” Seniors Aubrey Bertman and Olivia Clift are two other leaders North is leaning on. “Our focal point in the preseason and summer has been to be a better defensive team and work on our decision-making process,” Beal said. “We’re working really hard right now to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke.”

Wrestling Entering his fourth season at the helm, Norman North head wrestling coach Justin DeAngelis feels his program is really beginning to take shape. “I think we’re starting to make some changes to the culture,” DeAngelis said. “We’re starting to get some guys in here who really care about wrestling and know what my expectations are. Having young guys coming up and seeing that shows them this is what we’re supposed to do.” It helps that North has arguably their best team under DeAngelis’ watch, too. “Honestly, this is probably, from top to bottom, the best team that we’ve had in a pretty long period,” DeAngelis said. “We’ve got some real strong individuals. We’re going to have pretty solid guys at just about every weight.” Norman North brings back four wrestlers who qualified for State a season ago. That group features senior Matthew Revas, senior Cash Sessions, junior Logan Richard and sophomore Kyler Lester. Lester figures to wrestle in the 120-pound weight class, Sessions will wrestle at 144, Revas will wrestle at 150 or 157, and Richard will wrestle in the heavyweight class.

“They should be competing to qualify for State once again and maybe get on the podium,” DeAngelis said. On the girls’ side, the T-Wolves bring back a pair of state qualifiers in sophomore Ava Granados and junior Coty Sessions. “Coty is a returning state runner-up, so she should be in the mix to try to get a title,” DeAngelis said. Granados and Sessions are the latest leaders on a growing list of girl wrestlers at Norman North. “We’ve got 11 girls on the team right now. My first year, we had one girl… so it’s building up for us as a school, and across the country, the numbers are just exploding,” DeAngelis said. “Tons of college opportunities out there right now.”

Swimming As Norman North heads into the 2023-24 season, head swimming coach Kent Nicholson is excited to watch his teams grow up in front of all of our eyes. “I had a huge bunch of freshmen last year that are sophomores this year, so I’m excited to see how much progress we have made year-to-year with that crew,” he said. Two standouts for the Norman North girls are sophomores Jemerie Brister and Victoria Sun. “I think both girls teams are going to have a really good relay and have some solid scorers individually as well,” Nicholson said. On the boys’ side, seniors Jackson Koch and William Bordwine and sophomore Greg Williams are names the team will be counting on. “They’re an interesting crew… a lot of good swimmers all around the same level,” Nicholson said. “The question is can any of those guys separate themselves?” Across all of the four teams that Nicholson coaches at Norman High and Norman North, he is hopeful that the Tigers and Timberwolves can find more consistent scoring options. “Scoring depth is what we really need to improve,” Nicholson said. “We’re looking for kids that didn’t score last year to step up and score for us this year.” Both of the programs are looking forward to the possibility of swimming in their new pools at the Young Family Athletic Center possibly as early as January. “I’m looking forward to an opportunity to race in the new pool building being built,” Nicholson said.– BSM BOYD STREET MAGAZINE | 49

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Boys Basketball

Last season, the Norman Tigers made an appearance in the state tournament for the first time since 2002. This season, head coach Corey Cole is looking to make a deep run in the state tournament, after getting a taste of it last year. The Tigers return two starters but bring back some key playmakers and young players who helped the Tigers get to State a year ago. “Tradition never graduates,” Cole said. “We have blue-collar, talented and committed kids who have an opportunity to step in and step out. We pride ourselves on development on and off the court with new faces stepping up for us.” The Tigers’ big returner is senior Trashaun CombsPierce (6’7”), who had a breakout season a year ago. Last year, Combs-Pierce averaged 14.1 points per game (ppg), 8.2 rebounds per game (rpg) and 1.6 blocks per game (bpg). He was a first-team All-Conference performer and was also named All-Region. The dominant forward has been improving his numbers year after year. Sophomore Beau Billingsley (6’1”) started for the Tigers as a freshman. He averaged 4.6 ppg, along with 3.6 assists per game (apg), and helped run the explosive offense for Norman High. Billingsley will take on a bigger role for the Tigers this year. 52 | November 2023

Junior Isaiah Amous (6’5”) was a sixth man last year, playing a big role for the team. Amous puts his size on full display and continues to be a spark off the bench. “Our work ethic and consistency have been staples for us this offseason and preseason,” Cole said. “The buyin is there and the want to is evident daily. The guys are hungry and ready to go compete for each other.”

Girls Basketball

The Norman High girls basketball team had another dominant year for the 2022-2023 campaign. The Tigers finished the season with a 22-5 record and made it all the way to the state championship, finishing state runner up. Despite falling short, the Tigers fought for all four quarters against the No. 1 team in 6A, Edmond North, losing 65-58. Now, Norman High is looking to bounce back and get revenge. The Tigers graduated 12 seniors but still bring back firepower for another playoff run. “We are very young, but the effort and energy that we have had this year has been great,” head coach Frankie Parks said. “They are very coachable, hardworking and great kids. We are excited for what’s in store.” Junior Keeley Parks (5’11”) has been the anchor for the Tigers and continues to improve her game. Keeley Parks led Norman in scoring last season, averaging 20.9 ppg and played a big part in the suffocat-


ing Tigers’ defense with her athleticism and length. Keeley Parks is the No. 1 rated junior in the state and continues to climb the rankings across the nation. Sophomore Ady Hybl (5’4”) saw significant time last year in her freshman season and took advantage of her opportunities. Hybl was featured in the starting lineup several times and will look to build upon her freshman season. Keeley Parks and Hybl not only provided an offensive attack, but they were the top leaders in steals last year as well. The Tigers take pride in their play on the defensive side of the ball, which is why they’ve had so much success under Frankie Parks. Destinee Deer and Gabi Lee will be options on the offensive side of the floor as well. Deer saw a handful of minutes last season during the state championship run. Norman High opens its season against Putnam City West on Nov. 28, followed by Yukon and Edmond Santa Fe. They host the Joe Lawson Tournament Dec. 7-9.


The Norman High girls and boys wrestling teams had a successful season. Both teams had strong showings in the PCO Tournament, as well as the Norman Invitational and Inola Tournament. Each team also sent two wrestlers to the state tournament. The Tigers are looking to build on that success and send more wrestlers to State. “Last year, we did a good job as a team, adjusting to a new philosophy and new way of doing things,” head coach Forest Myers said. “However, this year we came in on day one as a coaching staff and told our wrestlers we demand more of them as individuals, teammates, students and wrestlers.” The girls team returns impactful wrestlers, including sophomore Annie De Leon, who will be competing in the 135-lb class. De Leon will play a big part in getting the team to qualify for State. Evee Camarena is a veteran player that is expected to have big moments for the Tigers.

The boys team is led by a few familiar faces. Senior Lance Eubanks has been a great football player for the Tigers, but he also plays a big role for the wrestling team. Eubanks will be competing in the 190-lb and 215-lb classes and can potentially make another run at State. Junior Trace Cole provides depth as he continues to improve on the mat. Cole has a good chance to win a medal. The goals for this Tigers wrestling team are to compete hard in every matchup and send more wrestlers to the state tournament. Myers wants to see this team place and eventually win tournaments. Myers says the team has done a great job preparing in the off-season to achieve these goals. “Our wrestlers have done a great job of answering that challenge thus far. We are excited to see that translate to the mat, classroom and the school building,” Myers said.


Norman High heads into the 2023-24 season with new faces, and head coach Kent Nicholson is looking for those young players to emerge. “We would like to see more scoring depth this year,” Nicholson said. “We have several new swimmers that we would like to see score this year that didn’t the previous year.” The girls team has had good relay teams in the past, and Nicholson is expecting the same this year. Three of the top swimmers for the Tigers are sophomores who got experience in the pool a year ago. Sophomores Kaida Bradley, Gabbi Beck and Kennedy Richardson will all provide great scoring for Norman High. Nicholson said these girls have great relays, and they continue to get better in the pool. The boys team is led by sophomore J.D. Thumann. Thumann was recently invited to the nation’s top swim camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Thumann currently has a time of 54.59 seconds in the 100 meter, which is by far the best in the state. The Tigers also have experienced leadership on the roster. Seniors Jones Godsey and Will Allen-Miller have contributed in a big way throughout their time at Norman High and will look to improve their times this season. “We are excited about this season,” Nicholson said. “Our first meet will take place in Moore. Then, the conference, regional and state meets are always a special time for these kids.” Both Norman High and Norman North will get access to a new swimming pool at the Young Family Athletic Center, which is expected to open in January and be a big boost for the sport. – BSM









MYTHS & MISCONCEPTIONS Local Doctor Shares What’s New in Medically Assisted Weight Loss


ith recent weight loss medications continuing to make headlines, Boyd Street Magazine sat down with Dr. Azure Adkins, a board-certified surgeon at Journey Clinic, to discuss what’s new in medically assisted weight loss. Today, patients have more options than ever before to treat obesity and weight-related conditions. “We are here to help,” Adkins encouraged. “Obesity is a chronic disease, not a moral failure, and it requires a long-term, multi-disciplinary approach.” Obesity is currently defined as having a body mass index (BMI) over 30. Obesity affects an estimated three billion people worldwide, a number that is expected to continue to increase. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 42% of adults in the United States are classified as obese. Adkins said that, if similar trends continue, experts estimate more than half of the world will have obesity in the next 15 years. While BMI is only one indicator of health, obesity is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease and certain types of cancer. “Treating obesity is hard because there is so much cultural impact and BMI is not a conclusive indicator of health,” Adkins said. “Obesity is a complex chronic disease and care is evolving.” The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) is working to modernize the threshold for when insurance coverage becomes available. Currently, insurance coverage is often available if a

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patient has a BMI of over 35 with a comorbid condition or over 40 without. “This criteria is from the early 90s,” Adkins said. “ASMBS believes the old guidelines are out of date and need to be lowered. The recommendation now is for surgery to be available for patients with BMI over 30 with a comorbid condition and above 35. “Patients’ ethnic backgrounds should also be taken into account. Some insurances are already getting on board.” Adkins said that mental health care surrounding weight loss was often overlooked and a pervasive myth that medically assisted weight loss was the easy way out kept many patients from seeking help. “There is a misconception that surgery is the easy way out and it is not. It is a lot of work to get surgery and you still have to make healthy day-to-day choices afterward,” she explained. “Less than 2% of people who qualify for bariatric and metabolic surgery actually have surgery.” Bariatric and metabolic surgeries have been practiced for over 40 years. Journey Clinic offers several minimally invasive surgical procedures including gastric bypass surgery, sleeve surgery, band surgery and modified duodenal switch. They also offer endoscopic treatments which do not require a hospital stay or incisions. Adkins qualified that surgery isn’t the best option for every patient, therefore Journey Clinic also offers non-surgical options which include medications, meal plans, nutritional counseling, behavior therapy and metabolic testing.

Advances in weight loss medication options are growing. GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) inhibitors, such as Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro and Trulicity, are a class of medications, originally used to treat type 2 diabetes, that work by mimicking the action of a naturally occurring hormone, GLP-1, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. “This new category of drug affects the brain and how quickly the stomach empties,” Adkins explained. Adkins said more medications “are coming down the pipeline.” “Journey Clinic works to provide the most up-to-date evidence-based treatment options,” she added. In fact, the clinic was recognized as a Women’s Choice Award Winner for Best Hospitals for Bariatric Care in 2020. For Adkins, who specializes in bariatric surgery, endoscopy and nutrition and lifestyle counseling, working at Journey Clinic “is her dream job” because she can help patients improve their lives. “I found that (in bariatric care) I get to build strong, lasting relationships and assist patients with their success,” she said. To inquire about the services available at Journey Clinic, visit and fill out the online consultation form.– BSM








raveling doesn’t come cheap, and part of keeping your finances intact during vacation includes knowing the best way to pay for your purchases during your getaway. Should you primarily use cash, a debit card or a credit card? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each choice so you can make an informed decision during your vacation.


Cash may be going out of style, but it’s still the preferred method of payment for many travelers. Payment cards can be complicated when you’re far from home and you may not be familiar with the protocol of your financial institution and credit card company when it comes to using your debit card on foreign soil. Cash, on the other hand, works anywhere. It’s also easy to stick to a budget when you only have cash on you since there’s no way you can overspend. Also, cash offers its own form of security by not leaving a digital trail. Finally, cash is easy to use to pay for small purchases when on vacation, such as food you may want to buy from a street vendor or a tip you may want to give the bellhop at your hotel. On the flip side, cash is not the most convenient to lug around. You’ll also need to decide how much cash you need for your vacation before leaving home, as you may not find an ATM that’s connected to your financial institution while on vacation. Finally, cash always carries a risk of loss or theft. Once it’s gone, there’s no way to get your funds back.


If you’re like many Americans, your debit card is your go-to method of payment, but should it be your number-one choice while on vacation? First, let’s take a look at the good news. Your debit card rarely carries with it any surcharges or merchant fees, and the money comes directly out of your checking account, so there will be no surprise bills waiting for you when you get back. Tracking your spending is easy, with account statements readily available on your financial institution’s website or app, and you can also link your account to any of 60 | November 2023

number of third-party payment apps, which work just like using a debit card. The bad news is your debit card is not necessarily the prime choice for covering expenses while on vacation. First, it doesn’t come with robust purchase protection. This means, if you want to backtrack a purchase, you may not have any way of doing so. There are also no rewards offered for your purchases and your card may not be accepted at every vendor.


Credit cards are generally the recommended choice of payment method to use when traveling. First, credit cards offer convenience and unparalleled security. When making payments in a foreign country to vendors you’ve never encountered, the fraud protection on credit cards and the ability to dispute unauthorized charges make this payment method desirable and super-safe. Credit cards may also be necessary when booking a hotel stay or car rental. Also, many credit cards offer travel-related perks for purchases, which can include travel insurance, rental car coverage and access to airport lounges. Additionally, using a rewards credit card can earn you points, miles or cash back on your purchases. Finally, when traveling internationally, credit cards often provide competitive exchange rates compared to currency exchange kiosks. This can result in cost savings and more accurate budgeting. Unfortunately, credit card use does have some downsides for vacationers. When you’re away from your normal surroundings and routine, you’re likely more relaxed and chilled. This can easily translate into less willpower and less responsible money decisions. Using your credit card when vacationing can trigger overspending, leaving you with a nightmare bill to pay off when you return home. It’ll also cost you more, as you may have interest tacked on to your bill if you don’t pay it off before it’s due. Last, but certainly not least, some credit cards have foreign transaction fees, which can add up to a significant amount over the course of your trip.

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n my recent travels through Spain, I have realized Spanish wine needs exploration and respect. Although there is, of course, Sangria (a wine cocktail), there are also many indigenous varietals and an expanding number of standard European wines. While sherry is the classic to end every Spanish meal, Cava is a sparkling star of the show, whether with breakfast (too early for me), lunch (at 3 p.m.) or as an aperitif or accompanying dinner. Cava is made with a mixture of indigenous grapes, generally Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo. It may be white or rosé. Juvé & Camps Rosé is a favorite of mine. Cava will give you great sparkle and flavor at a price point well under a comparable French champagne or Cremante. Macebeo is my new favorite white wine. Crisp and a little salty, it is a great wine to accompany seafood or pork. Verdejo is the workhorse of Spanish white wine. It is on every menu, by the glass and by the bottle. Pleasant and a little fruit forward, it is good food wine for tapas, too.

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Albarino is Verdejo’s grown-up brother and is similar in style to French Sauvignon Blanc. It compliments fish and chicken dinners. Tempranillo is a light red wine, great with tapas and light fare. It is slightly fruity, with light sweetness. Granache experienced a brief period of popularity a few years ago then seemed to drop off everyone’s radar. It is more full-bodied than tempranillo and is particularly good in blends with monastrella, mencia or cabernet sauvignon. Monastrella is also produced as a single varietal and is a full-bodied earthy wine. Spanish red wine is sold young or aged, but no indication is aged less than two years. Crianza is minimum of two years, six in barrel. Reserva is aged 36 months, 12 months in barrel. Gran Reserva is aged minimum 18 months in barrel and minimum 48 months. There are categories for white and rose with slightly less time involved in each category. So whether you are going to travel to Spain in person or at your own dinner table, give Spanish wines a try. Have fun, be safe, Kathy


ike Lawrence and Hal Smith, friends and partners who have worked together for more than 20 years, were having lunch one day in November of 2022 when they came up with the idea for The Brown Bag after the COVID-19 pandemic had turned the restaurant business upside down.


ates multiple restaurants in Norman and the Oklahoma City metro area, did little advertising.

The pandemic, with its lockdowns, operational restrictions and social distancing, had cost the industry profits and workers.

Located in the northwest corner of Brookhaven Village, the Brown Bag has been a big draw for those who live or work nearby.

“A lot of people changed their eating habits. They got used to getting carry out,” said Lawrence, 49, a managing partner. “We were looking for a small footprint, something we could run with fewer employees. It’s hard to find help, especially in the restaurant industry.”

“We get a ton of young families with young kids,” Lawrence said. “This area in general is a family-oriented area. Because we’re on this side of Interstate 35, we’re a convenience to people in this neighborhood. We’re right here in their backyard.”

“It opened up pretty well and has continued to do well over the last four months,” he said. “It’s beat our expectations.”

The Brown Bag opened in June at 3770 W. Robinson St. in the Brookhaven Village shopping center as a combination dine-in and drive-thru that specializes in burgers, tacos, tenders and personalized customer service. While there is seating for about 20 people inside and a couple of outside tables, The Brown Bag is mainly a drive through, according to Lawrence, who landed his first restaurant job at age 15 scooping ice cream for Braum’s. “Our goal is to drive online ordering, carry out and drive through,” he said. “We specialize in having a good quality product.” Everything is fresh, including the Pico de Gallo and salsa. The onion rings are hand-breaded, and all of the beef comes in fresh, Lawrence said. Longtime Norman resident Beth Brigham swears by The Brown Bag, where she eats lunch practically every day. Brigham manages Chico’s at Brookhaven Village, a women’s clothing store that’s within walking distance of the eatery. “The food is so good and it’s affordable and it’s always a pleasure to eat there,” she said. “They always greet me with a smile, and they start ringing up my order when I walk in the door.”

Photos by: Mark Doescher

Brigham is on a first-name basis with Lawrence and most if not all of his staff. Her go-to is the Chicken Avocado Taco, two tacos in a flour tortilla with marinated grilled chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, blended cheese, sliced avocado and Chipotle ranch dressing. “It’s delicious,” she said. “Of course, if the food wasn’t delicious it wouldn’t last. But the food is the best in Norman.” Lawrence said the response has been positive, even though he and Smith, a mentor who owns and oper-

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The Brown Bag gives customers like Brigham the option of eating in or picking up without a long wait. “What I love about this place is it feels like a family-owned business,” she said. “Every single person who works there is friendly and relaxed. They even go out and take your order when there is a line in the driveway.” Customers can pick up their food within 10 minutes of ordering online, and if they choose to dine inside, Lawrence said his staff “can turn orders in about six minutes or less.” “It’s all about service for us,” he said. “Great food and service.” – BSM


What’s Eating Norman

The Brown Bag







t takes a lot of organization to operate the Norman Police Department and Anthony “Tony” Riddles is one of the captains overseeing the patrol divisions within the Operations Bureau. With over 29 years of service with the City of Norman, Riddles is one of the two longest-serving commissioned officers on the force today, not including the chiefs. The other is Capt. Eric Lehenbauer.

He eventually started hitting burnout and wanted to do something different.

Born in Oklahoma City, Riddles grew up in Deer Creek, northwest of Edmond. During college, he worked at Riddles Parking and Service in downtown Oklahoma City, owned by his parents, taking over the business when they retired. Riddles earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Texas A & M in Commerce, Texas and, after graduation, went into law enforcement where he was hired by the Norman Police Department in 1994.

Describing his job investigating child abuse cases as seeing the darkest parts of society, Riddles also said it was the most rewarding thing he’s ever done in his life, except to be a father.

Three years later while working security part-time at Sooner Mall, Riddles met the woman who would become his wife. “I met my wife in 1998 in the mall,” he said. “She was the district manager for Pac Sun (Pacific Sun) working with 15 or 16 stores in three or four states.” Retired from retail, she is now a stay-at-home mom with their 13-year-old daughter. The first job Riddles had with the police department was in patrol (Operations) where he worked for about seven years on all three shifts. “I started working nights then went to afternoons for several years and then I began working the day shift,” he said. 66 | November 2023

“I was fortunate to apply for investigation and then spent the next eight years investigating child abuse cases,” he shared. “It was difficult at the time but it’s much more difficult after moving to a different job because I can’t un-see what I’ve seen and un-hear what I’ve heard.”

“Somebody has to do it and although I wouldn’t want to do it again, I felt like I was making a difference,” he said. The next phase of Riddles’ career was a promotion to lieutenant where he spent a few more years on patrol and in special investigations. Riddles was eventually promoted to captain, his current rank. Riddles was also on the SWAT team for 20 years. “I’ve done almost everything you can do in the department; not everything but close to it,” he shared. In his spare time, Riddles enjoys ranching. “I have a little bit of a farm, an acreage with horses, cows and donkeys,” he said. Riddles’ daughter is into barrel racing and he said that “a lot of time and money goes into that.”

This is a continuation of our series on public servants in Norman.

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