A stroke of genius

Camas rower bound for World University Games

Who: A 22-year-old Camas High School graduate who rows for Oklahoma City University

First meet: Opening Regatta on the Oklahoma River, March 14 and 15.

Final meet: World University Games July 3 to 5, in South Korea

Fundraising: Help Yraceburu fund trip to South Korea by donating to www.rallyme.com/rallies/1387/kayla2korea

Who: A 22-year-old Camas High School graduate who rows for Oklahoma City University

First meet: Opening Regatta on the Oklahoma River, March 14 and 15.

Final meet: World University Games July 3 to 5, in South Korea

Fundraising: Help Yraceburu fund trip to South Korea by donating to www.rallyme.com/rallies/1387/kayla2korea

Kayla Yraceburu’s evolution from swimming to rowing has been a stroke of genius.

The 22-year-old from Camas dreamed of competing on an international level. She will get that opportunity by rowing for Team USA in the 2015 World University Games July 3 to 5, in Gwangju City, South Korea. Seven of Yraceburu’s teammates from Oklahoma City University will join her at the Games.

“Either this is going to be my first, or my one and only, international competition,” Yraceburu said. “I want to soak it up, and know what it takes to compete at that level. It’s going to be a great experience to end my college career on.”

Yraceburu envisioned swimming in college, but discovering rowing during her senior year of high school changed her whole outlook. She still remembers trying to maneuver a single boat across Vancouver Lake in the chill of November.

“It was stinking cold,” Yraceburu said.

She stuck with it. After her first indoor race the following February, she was hooked.

“I had no idea what all the numbers meant. I was told a 7:30 would be a good time. I pulled in a 7:25,” Yraceburu said. “I started getting full ride offers to colleges. The ones I got for swimming weren’t even close. I guess I’m rowing.”

Four months later, Yraceburu was missing her high school graduation to compete in the Junior Nationals. She also accepted a full scholarship to row for Oklahoma City University.

“I almost deleted the e-mail from the OCU recruiter,” she recalled. “There’s no water in Oklahoma, I thought. But when I came for a visit, I fell in love with the school and the team.”

Turns out, the man-made Oklahoma River creates perfect conditions for rowing. Lights from the football stadium shine right on the water, which allows practice to continue after the sun goes down. Yraceburu said OCU allowed her to pursue rowing and nursing without forcing her to chose when to train or perform in either field.

“It’s the perfect match,” she said. “I love it here, and it’s going to be hard to leave.”

The university hosted tryouts for the World University Games in January. Winter weather prevented the rowers from training in the weeks and months leading up to the trials.

“I felt out of shape when I should be peaking,” Yraceburu said. “It was fun getting to know all of the girls, but at the same time, you’re trying to kick their butts to get on this team.”

Opportunity makes Yraceburu feel alive. She has no idea what the future holds after South Korea. She might continue on as a professional rower, give it all up for a full time job or pursue another athletic adventure. She has lifted weights off and on for six years, but has never dedicated herself to the sport like she has for swimming or rowing.

Right now, the Oklahoma City Star doesn’t drift too far from the water. She’ll cross that bridge when the time comes.

“Sports have shaped who I am,” Yraceburu said. “People ask me all the time how I could possibly do anything more than what my school work entails. Honestly, I think I would go insane if that’s all I did.

“When I’m out on the water, I’m not thinking about the paper that’s due Monday, the test that follows or the group project after that,” she added. “It’s just me and the boat. All I’m thinking about is my next stroke, next catch, next push, next pull, next release and next recovery. It’s nice to have that escape.”

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