South Metro Standard February 2024

Page 1



February 2024 • Issue 2 • Volume 1



Sooner Softball


New Year, New Home Kathy Gillette

Sooner Basketball

Porter & the Portal


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what’s inside



10 Kathy Gillette

Remembering the late community leader.

18 Loper Brothers

Three brothers power Jaguar basketball.

22 A Premier Project

Young Family Athletic Center set to elevate recreational opportunities.

24 Amidst the Action

Ortho Central opens orthopedic clinic, physical therapy and sports performance center.

26 Porter & the Portal

How Porter Moser navigated the college basketball transfer portal to field a newand-improved Sooner team.

30 New Season, New Home, Same Goal


Sooner softball goes for a four-peat in their new stadium.

38 20 Years of Toby & TJ

The T-Row in the Morning show celebratees it’s 20th anniversary.

42 Mapping the Heart

Cardiac electrophysiologist brings lifesaving care to community. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Mark Doescher


on the cover SOUTH METRO


February 2024 • Issue 2 • Volume 1

Lindsay Cuomo


Mark Doescher


Roxanne Avery | Lindsay Cuomo Chelsey Koppari | Chris Plank T. J. Turner | Tim Willert


Trevor Laffoon - Perry Spencer - Tanner Wright -


Casey Vinyard


South Metro Standard Magazine 2020 E. Alameda Norman, Oklahoma 73071 Phone: (405) 321-1400 E-mail: Copyright © 19th Street Magazine

Any articles, artwork or graphics created by 19th Street Magazine or its contributors are sole property of 19th Street Magazine and cannot be reproduced for any reason without permission. Any opinions expressed in 19th Street are not necessarily that of 19th Street management.



Sooner Softball


New Year, New Home Kathy Gillette

Sooner Basketball

Porter & the Portal

14 Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine

Shrine honors Oklahoman and his devotion to his faith.

Cover photo by: Mark Doescher


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KATHY GILLETTE Remembering the late community leader


athryn “Kathy” Gillette passed away on Dec. 22, 2023 at the age of 71. Gillette was a pillar of the Moore Community, where she served as the president of the Moore Chamber of Commerce for six years before her retirement in 2020. She joined the Chamber in 2006 as membership director before moving into the role of president in 2014. The Chamber saw significant growth under her leadership. “Back in 2006 when Kathy came to the Moore Chamber, we had a membership of around 250, during her time as the membership director, she grew the Chamber to over 600 members,” said Kim Brown, Gillette’s colleague and current Chamber president. “The culture that she created both with the staff but also with the membership was a welcoming one. You could always just come and sit for a bit. “When you talked with Kathy, she made you feel special.” Gillette earn several professional accolades including the 2013 Outstanding Chamber Leader from the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce Executives and the 2016 Sheila Lee Executive of the Year. Gillette’s legacy is more personal, according to Brown, who worked closely with Gillette for many years. “Many of her peers all had the same feeling about Kathy,” Brown shared. “She was kind, loving, helpful and impactful.”

10 | February 2024

Gillette grew up in Oklahoma City, graduating from US Grant High School. She also has deep roots in southeast Oklahoma, specifically Eagletown where she has several family members. Gillette entered the chamber industry from a publishing company, where she created directories for chambers in various territories. The Moore community experienced significant growth, both in terms of business and population, during her tenure with the Chamber. Gillette attributed this success to the Chamber’s partnership with the City of Moore. “We built so many different and new places that now people want to come to Moore, they want to eat in Moore, they want to shop in Moore,” Gillette explained in a previous interview. Brown affirmed, “The sustainability and vitality of the Chamber grew significantly under Kathy’s leadership.” John Ireland, of John M. Ireland Funeral Home and Chapel, described Gillette in a previous article about her retirement as “one of a kind,” particularly in terms of her dedication to local businesses. “Without any question, she wants everybody to succeed,” Ireland said. “She would do anything for you within her power to help your business succeed.”– SMS

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Shrine Honors Oklahoman and His Devotion to His Faith 14 | February 2024




ow open for a year, the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine continues to welcome visitors, or pilgrims as the church calls them, to share in the story of “an ordinary Oklahoman who did extraordinary things.”

The Shrine consists of three parts: a Pilgrim Center, which houses a museum and gift shop, Tepeyac Hill, a recreation of the hill in Mexico where Mary appeared to Saint Juan Diego, and the Shrine Church and Chapel, where Blessed Stanly is reposed. SOUTH METRO STANDARD | 15

“While this is a Catholic shrine, it is for everyone,” invited Miguel Mireles, the executive director for the shrine. “We want to share the story of Blessed Stanley with everyone because it is such a great story about an ordinary man from Okarche, Oklahoma, who does extraordinary things - a man of God with a love of farming who goes to Guatemala and falls in love with the people and progresses their lives. And because of that he gave his life.” Mireles said the shrine was built to also recognize Oklahomans and the kindness that Blessed Stanley and many fellow Oklahomans are known for. “I am a transplant here and the people of Oklahoma are very friendly and encouraging, they want you to feel at home,” he shared. “And that is what the shrine is too, we want you to feel at home here.

16 | February 2024

“The shrine also provides is an escape from the everyday drum of the city, of life. You come onto the campus, and you are taken to a different place where you can reflect and have some time to yourself.” The shrine is open to visitors seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. No admission is charged. Daily mass is held Monday through Saturday at 12:15 p.m. and four times on Sundays. Mireles recommends starting your tour at the Pilgrim Center, where you’ll find an engaging museum that recounts the life of Blessed Stanley. “When people come and spend some time here, they leave a little different, you see something different in them,” Mireles shared. “Are they going to become Catholic? I don’t know but maybe we planted a seed for them to think about what they are doing to better themselves and be more like Blessed Stanley.

Blessed Stanley Rother Stanley Francis Rother was born in 1935 in Okarche, Oklahoma. While in high school, he began considering the vocation of priesthood and was ordained in 1963. He served as an associate pastor for five years in Oklahoma before requesting permission to join the staff of Oklahoma diocese’s mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. While serving in Guatemala, there was a civil war between government forces and the guerrillas. During this conflict, Father Rother’s name appeared on a death list. For his safety, he returned to Oklahoma, but only for a short time. Three months after he returned to Guatemala at his own request in 1981, he was executed. Father Rother was formally recognized by the Vatican in Rome as martyr in 2016 and was beatified in 2017.

“The same folks that designed the bombing memorial museum designed our museum, so it is very well done,” he shared. “It is bilingual and self-paced so you can take your time to learn about the different times in his life from his childhood in Oklahoma to his martyrdom.”

Tepeyac Hill is a place of reflection. The gradually sloping path features native grass and plants and at the top are bronze painted statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego, created by Georgina Farías Nicolópulos, an artist from Mexico City, Mexico.

The sanctuary and chapel are beautifully designed and furnished in the style of the Spanish Colonial period and visitors are welcome to tour both spaces. While the architecture and décor can easily grab visitors’ attention, an interesting feature to look out for is underfoot.

“Along the path, there are benches and places to stop and rest,” Mireleas said. “Curiosity gets a lot of folks, especially Tepeyac Hill. When I ask them what brought you in today, they say ‘well I have been driving by and I felt called to stop and see what this is.’ What better way to share a little bit of Oklahoma with people?”

“The Saltillo tiles were handmade in Mexico, sun dried in big fields, and because they are in a field when they were wet sometimes you can see animal tracks in them,” Mireles said. The construction of the shrine took two and half years, which was proceeded by a multi-year fundraising effort by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

The shrine will host events on Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter. Another event to note, the shrine will celebrate the life and legacy of Blessed Stanley on his Feast Day on July 28. To learn more about the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine, visit– SMS



18 | February 2024


Three Brothers Power Jaguar Basketball


he Westmoore boys basketball team has jumped off to a swift start this season, particularly in district play. A significant contributor to this success is a trio of left-handed brothers. While the three Loper brothers share the same last name, each brings a distinctive skill set to the team. “They’re all great players and are coachable,” said head coach Todd Millwee. “They each have different personalities and it’s neat to watch.” The Loper boys showcase a plethora of abilities on the court, and they also contribute to the Moore community. All three have been coaches in the Junior Jag Elementary League, and Millwee commends the boys for their genuine effort. “It’s cool to see them do a little community service,” said Millwee. “The student’s parents notice the time and effort and thank the boys for being so invested.” Senior Gavin Loper has left an indelible mark on the Jaguars by being an outstanding leader. While players often focus on statistics, Millwee commends Gavin for maintaining a team-first mindset. The coaching staff is also impressed with the high level of anticipation he brings to the game. “He’s very mature and seems like an old soul,” Millwee said. “He guards the best player on the other team and is a great passer on the offensive end.” Juniors Garrett and Grant Loper share a spot in the starting lineup with their older brother. While there have been rough patches between the brothers, all three understand the moments of strife were all in the spirit of competition. “Sometimes arguments happen, but it’s all love at the end of the day,” said Gavin. “We bicker at times, but we have great chemistry on the court.” Garrett acknowledges the special opportunity of starting alongside his brothers. “It’s a rare thing,” said Garrett. “But our connection is amazing because we know each other so well.”

Personalities are the best way to distinguish the brothers. Anyone who has been around Garrett knows he has a great sense of humor. “Garrett is very funny, says the funniest things off the court,” said Millwee. “On the court, he is extremely confident in his abilities. One of his strengths is that he can go get a bucket and when he gets hot, he can be hard to stop.” Grant might be the most athletic of the three and his game reflects that. Being a 6’2” guard has not stopped him from playing amongst the trees and finishing with contact. He gives a lot of credit to the family chemistry for the chance to play free. “There are times where we know what to do without being vocal,” said Grant. “Multiple times a defender can play heavy on me and either one could look at me and I would know the play to make.” “They do everything you could ask,” Millwee said. “They’re dependable and do all the small things right and that sets the tone for the young guys.” Westmoore plays a lot of guards, but Millwee does not feel like it hinders the team’s end goal, which is making it to State. When primarily using guards, defending the post can become quite the task. “When we play together as one, I feel that having four or five guards out there can play in our favor,” said Millwee. “We’ve played some good bigs that are 6’7, 6”8” and when they try to force it down low, our guards are ready to match the toughness and have the length to force stops.” Westmoore does have two players on the roster with decent size who can make an impact in close games. Senior Zane Zielny stands at 6’4” and specializes in “fighting for rebounds or setting strong screens,” according to Millwee. Millwee appreciates the effort Zielny gives. The other is a young sophomore by the name of Ivan Antwi-Donkor. Despite his youth, Antwi-Donkor is explosive and can finish well above the rim, blocking opposing shots into the stands.– SMS


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A PREMIER P ROJ ECT Young Family Athletic Center Set to Elevate Recreational Opportunities

22 | February 2024


he soon-to-open Young Family Athletic Center is expected to elevate opportunities and amenities for area athletes, while also providing a boost to the region’s economy. The stateof-the-art, indoor multi-sports facility is considered a “premier facility” that is expected to attract athletes, residents and visitors to a truly unique space, according to Jason Olsen, the director of parks and recreation for the City of Norman. “There’s not going to be another facility like this in our region,” Olsen said. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for Feb. 19 to celebrate the opening of the complex, which spans approximately 122,000 square feet in north Norman. Community input played a crucial role in shaping the design of the complex, intended to cater to a diverse range of citizens. Led by the city, the athletic center represents a community collaboration aimed at enhancing health, wellness, and recreational opportunities in the region. “Multiple people in our community will benefit from us investing in ourselves to make our community better,” Olsen said. Funding for the complex comes from the Norman Forward sales tax, an initiative approved by voters to finance quality-of-life projects, along with a $4 million donation from the Trae Young Family Foundation. The foundation actively supports mental health and wellness initiatives. Trae Young, a Norman native, University of Oklahoma basketball standout and NBA player with the Atlanta Hawks, expressed the family’s commitment to ensuring young athletes have access to “a world-class facility.” “People will now travel to Norman, Oklahoma, to play these indoor sports and also, experience our hotels, restaurants and shopping, among other things that make this city what it is,” the family said in a statement. Part of the funds invested by the Foundation will also help create a scholarship program.


ketball courts with 12 volleyball courts that overlay the basketball courts. Additionally, Norman Regional Health System has developed space within the complex to offer NMotion, a sports and human performance center, and clinic space for a second Ortho Central location in Norman. Other amenities include indoor pickleball courts, concessions, retail space, administrative offices and tournament and team breakout rooms. Residents in the area will also be able to utilize the complex. Monthly and annual memberships are available for individuals and families. For more information about the complex, visit– SMS

YFAC by the numbers: •

122,000 SQUARE FEET - the approximate size of the new Young Family Athletic Center

2 - the number of swimming pools featured at the complex, an 8-lane, 25-yard competition pool and a 4-lane, 25-meter pool

8 - the number of basketball courts at the center

12 - the number of volleyball courts at the complex

$22.5 MILLION - The amount of money funded for the project through the Norman Forward initiative. The total projected budget for the complex is nearly $36 million

The athletic center will feature two pools and a multi-sport gymnasium which houses eight






Ortho Central Opens Orthopedic Clinic, Physical Therapy and Sports Performance Center

n an unusual but innovative move, a medical clinic is set to operate within the same facility where athletes engage in their sports. Thanks to a collaborative effort between Norman Regional Health System, the Trey Young Foundation and the City of Norman, the Young Family Athletic Center will house precisely such a facility. “This project has been an exciting opportunity to work with the Young family and the City of Norman,” shared Heather Kuklinski, who oversees the three departments that will be housed inside the complex. “For a project of this magnitude, it has taken commitment, collaboration and strong leadership to get it done.” Situated between the pool and the multi-sport gymnasium in a two-story space, the facility will encompass a physical therapy clinic, a team of orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine providers as well as a sports and human performance center. Kuklinski emphasized that athletic trainers will be present during many tournaments and competitions.

24 | February 2024

The downstairs area will feature a physical therapy clinic equipped with state-of-the-art amenities, including indoor and outdoor therapy spaces, an anti-gravity treadmill and more. Upstairs, Ortho Central’s sports medicine program will expand from its Tecumseh office, freeing up essential space in the original clinic. NMotion, Norman Regional’s sports and human performance center, will also share the upstairs space, providing a range of services aimed at helping patients achieve their peak performance goals. “All of the spaces have been designed to focus on all levels of healthcare from injury prevention to performance and recovery,” shared Kuklinski. “We are very thankful for all that have been involved to get this to the finish line. It will be incredible for the city of Norman.” To learn more about the services offered, visit or– SMS


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f there has been one constant for University of Oklahoma head basketball coach Porter Moser, that constant has been change. In the transfer portal era of college basketball, the third-year coach has had to rebuild his roster each season to compete at the highest level. Now, as Oklahoma hits the heart of conference play, it looks as if the 2023-24 Sooners may have Moser’s most impressive roster as they attempt to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2020-2021 season. To truly understand the wild nature of the roster changes the Sooners have faced, only one player remains on the Sooners’ roster from the first season when Moser took over. More recently, only five players remain from the 15-member 2022-23 Oklahoma basketball roster. That’s 75 percent of the Sooners’ scoring and rebounding production gone from a team that was 15-17 and in last place in the Big 12. The glass-half-full crowd would argue that the Sooners are better off rebuilding because the players leaving weren’t able to get the job done, and so far, this season, they have been right. Javion McCollum, John Hughley IV and Jalon Moore have added instant athleticism and offense to a group that has seen seven of its top nine scorers added in the transfer portal. Moser told us about the improved portal haul from day one, and now it’s playing out as he projected. “We’re noticeably playing faster, we’re more athletic, we’re long,” Moser said. “I think we’re deeper. We can go into the bench and have some guys that have played a lot of college basketball.” As the portal continues to be a dominating topic in college sports, understanding and embracing the portal, retention and talent are all key elements to having success in the portal.

Photos by: Mark Doescher


PORTER & the PORTAL s o o n er m en’s b a sket b a ll

The NCAA’s transfer portal opened Oct. 15, 2018, and, according to the NCAA, the portal was created as a “compliance tool to systematically manage the transfer process from start to finish, add more transparency to the process among schools and empower student-athletes to make known their desire to consider other programs.” In simpler terms, it is a database that allows coaches to know who is available and who is not.

26 | February 2024

Javion McCollum



The portal took on a much bigger role in 2021 when the NCAA allowed a one-time transfer without a oneyear penalty in several sports including football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and men’s hockey. The website labeled the transfer portal in college basketball as College Basketball’s most powerful force. Transfer rates in men’s basketball have steadily risen, more than doubling over the last six years. Over 1,600 players entered the portal in both 2021 and 2022. This year, all 32 Division I conferences saw at least 15% of their players enter the portal. Six conferences (NEC, American, American East, Ohio Valley, MAC and MAAC) surpassed the 30% mark. “Absolutely, it is more difficult with the transfer portal. It’s hard because everybody wants the quick fix, if you’re not playing right away, the grass is greener somewhere else,” Moser said. “But unequivocally, I’m not changing directions. What I mean by that is, just because it’s more difficult to build a program doesn’t mean I’ve stopped believing in what I believe in.”

EMBRACE AND ADJUST In the eyes of Moser, retention is a major key to having success in the portal. As important as it is to bring in talented players, having a foundation of players who understand your culture makes rebuilding as seamless as it can be for new arrivals. “When you get to keep those key pieces, the new guys coming have guys that say this is how we do it, instead of starting from fresh right out of the gate,” Moser said. The key foundational pieces for the Sooners have been Milos Uzan and Otega Oweh. After seeing significant playing time last year, both have emerged as trusted leaders and contributors. Add in what Sam Godwin has brought to the program in his two seasons and Oklahoma has been able to retain the talent necessary. “Milos and Otega were thrown in last year as freshmen... they both started by the end of the year. We were the only team in the Big 12 that did that. Sam Godwin got a lot of minutes,” Moser said of his core. “Those three coming back set the expectations. The new guys that we brought in were veterans and we recruited to that DNA. They came together in the summer, and it was intentional on both parts.” That intentionality helped lead OU to its best start to a season since the 2015-16 season. The 10-0 Sooner start tied for the seventh-best start in program history with the 1991-92 and 2003-04 seasons.

CJ Moore covers college basketball for The Athletic and has been impressed with what Moser has done in the portal this season. “I think it’s hard to build something sustainable, but I think he’s learned the combination of player that fits him and fits the league,” Moore said of Porter. “If you look up and down that roster, the athleticism and quickness is better than they’ve had in years past and I think it’s the reason they’ve turned things around.”

THE SUCCESS Easily one of the biggest positives for Sooner hoops is the addition of Fort Myers, Florida product Javion McCollum. McCollum came to Norman by way of Siena, which was his only Division I offer out of Fort Myers High. He averaged 6.7 points and 1.8 assists per game in 23 appearances as a freshman. He doubled those numbers as a sophomore after becoming a starter for the Saints. In 2022-23, McCollum put up 15.9 points and 3.9 assists across 25 starts. “I’ve always believed in myself because of the hard work I put in,” McCollum said. “I believe in myself, I believe in my teammates, I believe in my coaching staff and we’re all in it together. We all want to win.” McCollum has been an instant contributor and difference-maker as a Sooner, and each time he steps on the court he’s gotten better. “The journey is always exciting, even when I was at Siena, it was exciting to see basketball at that level,” he said. “And now I’m at Oklahoma seeing what it’s like at this level. I’m enjoying the journey and just taking it all in.” McCollum has enjoyed the chemistry in the Sooner locker room and has provided solid on-the-court results. “We have a great group of guys that are willing to do everything,” McCollum said. “They know their roles, I think that’s a big part of our team, everyone knows their roles. When you have a group of guys like that, the sky’s the limit.” Despite stops in Loudonville, New York and now Norman, McCollum has not forgotten his roots. In Fort Myers, he was a member of the growing ministry group “Hoops On A Mission”, an organization that uses basketball as a vessel for life lessons and personal growth for children and teens. “I want to set an example for those kids back home, to see that there is more,” McCollum said. “If you work hard, you can achieve anything in this world.”

“With the transfer portal, there’s a lot of turnover,” Moser said. “We can talk about the negatives, but the positives are you can add key additions. We feel like we have.”

THE FUTURE For everyone who has a complaint or a disdain for the transfer portal and what it has done to college sports, stories like Javion McCollum remind you that it can and does work. It also isn’t going anywhere, and Moser has embraced it. “It’s about development, about instilling your culture, then it’s about retaining them,’” Moser said. “Then you’ve got to combine that with upgrading your talent every year to get your roster right.” The NCAA recently adjusted the length of time in which the portal is open, cutting it from 60 to 45 days and adjusting the dates by sport. But the fact that you can still transfer multiple times without sitting out a year will make it tougher to slow down player movement. “The rulings recently have made it tough and opened up the second transfers. It’s going to set us up where

Jalon Moore

no one has to sit,” CJ Moore from the Athletic said. “You’ll have this wild free agency year in and year out and it will be up to coaches to get the right guys in the program that you can keep around the program.” Despite the constantly evolving rosters and ever-changing landscape involving player movement, Moser has stayed true to what he believes. And while the fight continues to return to the NCAA Tournament, Moser still looks to find talent that features the right character. “With all the factors involved, you still try to combine your character, what you believe in, the work ethic and toughness with talent and athletic ability,” Moser said. “Let’s not get it twisted, you need talent. It’s ok to want to be a pro. I want guys who want to be a pro... I want guys that want to achieve the highest level, but you want them to be invested in their journey of getting better and winning for the University of Oklahoma.”– SMS


Jayda Coleman

Tiare Jennings

30 | February 2024



he Oklahoma Sooner softball team is in the midst of a historic run. During this dynastic stretch, the Sooners have won three straight and seven of the last nine National Championships. They also enter the 2024 season riding a record-setting, 53game winning streak and feature a roster that includes 10 seniors. But despite all its accomplishments, the best may still be yet to come as the Sooners open the year as preseason favorites while playing in a new stadium.

s o o n er s of t b a ll p review

New Season New Home Same Goal

It might be hard to fathom that the Sooners could actually be “better” when you consider the overall numbers from last season. Oklahoma won its third straight National Championship last season after posting a 61-1 record, which was good for the best winning percentage (.984) in NCAA Division I history. Twenty-eight of the team’s 61 wins came via run rule, as the Sooners outscored opponents 50159. OU registered a nation-leading and school-record 35 shutouts and threw four no-hitters. Add into the equation the transfer of Jory Bahl to Nebraska and the graduation of standout shortstop Grace Lyons, it would be hard to imagine any team being better than what the Sooners were in 2023. Despite all the accolades, the Sooners did not spend the offseason shining up awards while relaxing and counting trophies. Head coach Patty Gasso and the staff spent the offseason adding to its already talented and deep roster with one of the top recruiting and portal classes in the nation.

STAR-STUDDED LINEUP Competition has been a cornerstone of Sooner softball in the Gasso era. Despite returning a group of position players that have started 872 games in a Sooner uniform, there is competition for several key positions in the lineup.


Rylie Boone

32 | February 2024

But there are certain areas that the Sooners feel very confident. “Not everything is up for grabs... some of these positions are pretty locked in,” Coach Gasso said of a returning lineup that includes consistent starters at eight of nine positions. “Kinzie Hansen is going to be the lead behind the plate, but I have a very viable option in Riley Ludlam who can do a good job when we need to give Kinzie a break. Riley can also swing it well.” Hansen returns for her final season in a Sooner uniform after winning the Johnny Bench Award as the best college softball catcher. Hansen is one of 10 Sooners playing their final season in Norman. Included in that group is one of the most electric players in college softball, center fielder Jayda Coleman. Coleman has started every game of her career in a Sooner uniform and is a 3-time, first-team All-American. In boosting her power numbers to a career-high 17 home runs last year, Coleman was named the Big 12 Player of the Year. Tiarre Jennings returns as a fellow 3-time, first-team All-American, has been named to the College World Series All-Tournament team in each of her three seasons, and is the career record holder for career RBI in the College World Series. Riley Boone is back in the outfield after her most productive season in a Sooner uniform which included being named to the WCWS All-Tournament team. After hitting a career-high 17 home runs and being named a first-team All-American, third baseman Alyssa Brito returns along with Cydney Sanders and Alynah Torres who both became regular starters during their first season at OU. There might not be a more impressive group of returning players to one team in college softball since the early 90s for Arizona and UCLA. Despite the amount of talent and stars that return, Gasso has challenged her players to continue to fight and grind for an opportunity. “You might not win a position on defense, but maybe you’re a great runner - you’re going to do something to help us win,” Gasso said. “I do feel like I’m able to move people in and out and potentially empty the bench every single game. I’m looking forward to that. “Part of it is the mindset, it’s the maturity of the team first and the mindset of saying even though I’m not the starter on day one, I’m still going to show you and I’m going to fight. I want them to prove me wrong. My goal is to keep them all pushing because they are all capable.” It’s not just the returning production on offense that

brings a ton of talent to the Sooners in their fight for four in a row. The Sooners signed one of the top recruiting classes in the country and it did not take long during Fall Ball to realize that Kasidi Pickering and Ella Parker have a chance to contribute from day one. “I worked so hard to get Kassidy Pickering here because she has amazing leadership qualities...I don’t know if you see a leader play centerfield but, on her team, she was and she pitched,” Gasso said of the Humble, Texas product. “She’s very confident in her abilities and doesn’t listen to the noise. She is very strong and mature for her age. She will absolutely be vying for a start spot along with Ella Parker.” One glaring piece is missing from the last five seasons in Norman. Standout shortstop Grace Lyons exhausted her eligibility after one of the most consistent and spectacular careers in Sooner history. The playmaking shortstop was awarded the gold glove last season and finished her Sooner career ranking in the top 10 of several statistical categories including home runs and runs batted in. Lyons was the Sooner captain last season and was as smooth of a fielder as Oklahoma has ever seen at shortstop. It will be hard to replace Lyons. In fact, she is such a challenging player to replace that there will not necessarily be one player who will be challenged with doing so. “Everybody wants to know who is going to be the next shortstop and the answer is going to be more than one person. You can be assured that Alyssa (Brito) and Tiarre (Jennings) will always be in the lineup,” Gasso said. “The beauty is Brito is so good at 3rd base, but she is good at shortstop. Tiarre is so good at 2nd but she’s good at shortstop and their experience is beyond anyone else on the team. Then you’ve got both Quincee Lilio and Avery Hodge. Avery could play second or short and be great. Q could be a very good 2nd baseman.” Bottom line for Gasso and the lineup in 2024? “You’re gonna see different looks in different positions,’ she said.

THE NEW LOOK PITCHING STAFF Despite the turnover in the overall pitching staff, standout pitching coach Jenn Rocha remains. Rocha helped lead a staff that led the nation in ERA and had three pitchers on the All-Big 12 team. Under Rocha’s guidance, it will be a new-look rotation with a dose of familiarity. SOUTH METRO STANDARD | 33

While the Sooners said goodbye to Jordy Bahl and Alex Storako, the Sooner pitching staff welcomed back veteran Nicole May, along with standout youngster Kiersten Deal and the rapidly improving SJ Guerin. To replace the exits of Storako and Bahl, the Sooners loaded up in the transfer portal including grabbing one of the best pitchers in college softball from its archrivals, adding Kelly Maxwell from Oklahoma State. “It was weird at first,” Maxwell said about adjusting to life at OU. “But I’m feeling more comfortable and getting to know (my teammates) a lot better now.” Maxwell joins the Sooners after a stellar career in Stillwater that included a career 1.58 ERA, 58 career wins and 746 career strikeouts. “I wouldn’t say anything surprised me,” Maxwell said of the transition to Oklahoma. “I always knew of the program just being down the road, but I always respected how hard they worked, their blue-collar mentality and the love for the game that they played on the field, and it shows every day. That’s kind of what attracted me here.” Maxwell joins a talented group of transfers that includes Paytn Monticelli from Wisconsin and Liberty ace Karlie Keeny. The Sooners’ impressive haul in the portal is a product of players wanting to get better and be coached by the best. “They want to be coached by the elite Jen Rocha,” Gasso said. “I think that means a lot to them. I think from afar some of these guys, they see our culture, and it’s very intriguing to them.” Keeney managed a 2.61 ERA and 27-12 record in 2023. Keeney dealt seven innings and allowed one run, an unearned one, on five hits in the Flames’ 1-0 loss to the Sooners on Feb. 9. She also helped Liberty eliminate No. 2 UCLA in the NCAA Los Angeles Regional with a one-run, seven-hit complete game outing on May 20. Monticelli pitched 21 games for the Badgers last season, starting 13 of them. The Cedarburg, Wisconsin, native recorded a 2.71 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 80 innings. The meshing of the group was not immediate during the fall, but it started to come together as the fall season concluded. “It took a while to get everyone together and gel because we have so many new faces and Karlie was out for the fall,” Gasso said of the group coming together. 34 | February 2024

“Kelly Maxwell got much better as we got through the end of the semester. Monticelli came from a tough situation in Wisconsin and is trying to find herself here and is making good strides. She’s going to help us. Add the returning of Kierston Deal, the steady force of Nicole May and SJ had a good offseason, we have six pitchers and all very viable options. “I don’t know who our ace is... Someone is going to step forward and be that person.”

LOVES FIELD In a lot of ways, the 2024 season is one of finality – it is the last season for 10 record-setting Sooner seniors and the final season in the Big 12 before the Sooners move to the SEC for the 2025 season. But it is also a season that marks a new era in Sooner softball and a new beginning. When the Sooners open the 2024 home schedule, they will do so in the brand-new, state-of-the-art Loves Field. Loves Field spans 44,000 square feet, doubling the seating capacity of Marita Hynes Field, with a 10,000-square-foot indoor practice facility. “Every day you get reminded that you started over at Reaves Park. And now we’re going to a palace and it’s just hard to comprehend,” Gasso said of the new facility. “But it’s what has been built from the ground up and so many athletes are a part of it. “I can’t wait to bring all of the alums back in so they can be part of it and watch these guys just shine on that.” Even with a new stadium and the weight of incredible expectations, the focus and goal have not changed. “The Championship Mindset” will continue to guide the University of Oklahoma softball program as it chases history and does so with a foundation set in hard work and preparation. “Confidence. Hard work. Humility. Things that I don’t know if you find in programs anymore,” Gasso said of the Sooner softball approach. “They’re searching for excellence. It’s why I coach. It’s why they love to play here. Fans are drawn to it. We won’t ever change who we are.”– SMS

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oby Rowland and TJ Perry have been waking up Oklahoma for 20 years, a milestone accomplishment in an industry that is known for change. As the morning team on the Ref Radio Network, Toby and TJ continue to be entertaining and informative with great guests and a whole lot of fun. “I remember very early on thinking that this guy has the same sense of humor that I have,” Toby said. “But, in my opinion, we really bonded in 2007 and 2008 when the Thunder thing happened. “That was hard on me and my family. TJ was so steady and supportive. We developed a deeper friendship going through that which has continued to grow. I can’t imagine ever doing a show with anyone else. He’s my guy!” In 2007, Toby was offered the opportunity to become a sideline reporter for the Thunder Radio Network but was not allowed to take the job due to his contractual situation at the time. In the end, the dynamic duo solidified, and Toby was eventually named as the sideline reporter for the Sooner Radio Network. Today, he is the Voice of the Sooners. “Our team is so excited to celebrate 20 years of the T-Row in the Morning Show,” said Casey Vinyard, owner of KREF. “Toby and TJ bring so much joy to our mornings. They truly set the foundation for the KREF lineup and are so beloved by the KREF Army.

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“They are both amazing entertainers and even better people.” What might be most impressive is how fresh and entertaining the show continues to be. It is challenging to spend 20 years in a world that demands you be at your best every day. Toby and TJ have excelled at making the show a fun, almost family event. In fact, the 20-year mark was a goal that TJ set for himself when he started working in radio. “Twenty years on a morning show is the one goal I set for myself going into radio,” he shared. “I didn’t set out necessarily thinking I would go into sports talk. Originally, I thought I would end up working at a country or rock station. “My one goal was to somehow end up on a morning show that people wanted to listen for a good laugh.” Toby credits TJ’s patience for the show having the incredible staying power that it maintains to this day. “Our longevity speaks to TJ’s patience and his ability to put up with my nonsense over and over and over again,” Toby said. “He’s the glue that has held this thing together. “In addition to being hilarious and endlessly entertaining, he is consistent and reliable. TJ has been the gravitational force around which our show has orbited for two decades.”


KREF prides itself as the home of Sooner Fans and its foundation is set on not just Sooner sports, but sports in general. But what makes the T-Row in the Morning show so special is its ability to dive into topics not necessarily related to what’s going on in the field of play. “My favorite thing is how many times we’ve been having a random conversation about everyday things, and it spins into a roaring debate that all of the listeners get sucked into,” Toby said. “Chili with beans or no beans? Is pimento cheese tremendous or terrible? Am I too old to wear my hat backward? Who would win a fight between an alligator and a tiger? And so on.” The ability to mix serious sports conversations with irreverent debates is what has made Toby and TJ a must listen. “Toby and TJ’s commitment to promoting Brown O’Haver has been a key factor in the growth of our company over the past 10 years. However, more than any business relationship is the friendship we have developed with these guys. They are excellent partners for us and better friends. Alice and I congratulate them both on 20 years of radio excellence!” One of the best days of the year is “Joe C. Day” on the TRow in the Morning Show, a day when OU Vice President and Sooner Athletic Director Joe Castiglione spends the day at a local breakfast establishment talking with Toby, TJ and fans of the show. It is a product of not just the incredible bond that Toby and TJ have created with the listeners of the show but also the community and

the University of Oklahoma as well. “Twenty years together on the radio is simply remarkable. Listening to Toby and TJ day after day is a treat,” Castiglione said. “Their chemistry is undeniable and the entertainment they bring to listeners is unmatched in our market. “Every segment, every topic, every disagreement – and every Twitter poll – is sure to create conversation. I’ve loved every opportunity I’ve had to go on the show and I’m grateful to count both Toby and TJ as friends.” Toby and TJ are a special combination because they make you feel like you are a part of their world, a part of their family. They make you feel like you’re right there with them in everything they do. If it’s Perry catching grief from Toby over his lake house or his circle drive or TJ firing back at Toby for his odd habit of picking up coins during his walk, you feel like you’re part of the fun. You find yourself choosing sides in each argument, just like you would with a family member. Toby and TJ live in your community. Their kids go to school in the same schools your kids attend, and they face the everyday problems that we all face and aren’t afraid to talk about them or poke fun at themselves when they struggle with real-life issues. They’re real, they’re fun, and while they are serious about being entertaining, they don’t take themselves too seriously. Cheers to Toby and TJ, and cheers to another 20 years of making sports radio fun. – SMS SOUTH METRO STANDARD | 39





MAPPING THE HEART Cardiac Electrophysiologist Brings Life-Saving Care to Community


rrhythmias, abnormalities in the heart’s rhythm causing it to beat too fast or too slow, affect 1 in 50 Americans under 65 and about 1 in 10 over 65, according to the Arrhythmia Alliance, a coalition focused on education and awareness. Atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common type of arrhythmia, can increase a person’s risk for stroke. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that AFib causes one in seven strokes. Dr. Robin Singh, MD, a board-certified cardiologist specializing in cardiac electrophysiology and the treatment of various cardiac arrhythmias, recently joined Norman Regional’s Heart and Vascular Associates. He aims to help build the cardiac electrophysiology program within the health system and attributes his choice to join Norman Regional to strong administrative support and an excellent core staff “well experienced at taking care of patients,” he said. “In the past, patients with these needs were referred to specialists in the OKC area,” Dr. Singh explained. “This program is a new opportunity for patients to be able to maintain providers within one network. “From my years of training, it is always better for patients to have their care under one network because it streamlines their care.” Dr. Singh employs a series of tests to map the heart’s electrical signals, utilizing technology that allows him to see in real-time what is happening inside a patient’s heart. “The procedures let us visualize the internal anatomy

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and electrical information of the heart,” he shared. “The way I like to describe it is we use a specialized catheter like a paintbrush and create a 3D virtual model of the patient’s heart. We are able to obtain information about how healthy each part of the patient’s heart is in real time.” This vital information aids doctors in locating the source of the problem and determining how to correct it. Dr. Singh notes that a person’s risk of developing arrhythmia is influenced by age, lifestyle and genetics. Smoking, alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, high blood pressure and lack of sleep can trigger symptoms, which include lightheadedness, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain. Dr. Singh credits his family for his interest in becoming a physician. “My parents have been incredible role models. They are both doctors - my father was in cardiology; my mother in internal medicine,” he said. “Growing up around them and watching them every day had a huge influence on my career arc. In addition, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with several fantastic educators who helped me along the way.” Outside of medicine, Dr. Singh enjoys art, travel and watching sports, especially Duke basketball. He attended Duke University before medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine. Most recently, he completed a clinical cardiac electrophysiology fellowship at Brigham & Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School. – SMS

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