NORMAN, Okla. – The celebration of Oklahoma’s 2013 national championship culminated Monday afternoon with an invitation to the White House to meet President Barack Obama.
“It was fantastic,” head coach Patty Gasso said. “It was one last grand celebration, and to do it this way in getting to see a piece of history and meet the most powerful man in the world who was recognizing your accomplishments, it was phenomenal.”
The team arrived in Washington D.C. on late Sunday night, around midnight local time. The next day the Sooners ate breakfast before heading to the U.S. Capitol Building to meet United States Congressman Tom Cole (4th District – Oklahoma) and get a tour.
“Each state has a representation of a statue and Oklahoma’s is Will Rogers so we took a photo around him,” Gasso said. “There’s a story that one of his shoes has the shine off and there’s a legend that you touch his shoe for good luck, so everyone was rubbing on the shoe.
“We got to see some neat history, statues and art; it was all very interesting and kind of an ‘awe’ moment to see all of that in front of us.”
After spending approximately two hours at the U.S. Capitol, the Sooners departed for lunch and then back to the hotel to change before leaving for the White House. After passing through multiple security checkpoints, the team was permitted to explore certain areas like the Green Room and the Red Room.
“I used to watch the show The West Wing in history class, and then I found myself looking out the window starting at it, so it was interesting to see all the different areas you’ve heard about,” junior Lauren Chamberlain said. “Being in those same rooms where so many historic political figures had been and the history of it all was pretty cool.
“I was surprised at how many rooms there were; it’d be easy to get lost there are so many rooms. They’re all connected and there were a lot of little things about each room that were unique.”
The team then gathered back up and was assigned to Green Room, along with a few other national championship teams, for their meeting with President Obama.
“We were the fourth team he was going to meet and he talked to each of us and shook each of our hands,” Chamberlain said. “He talked about how his niece played softball and basketball, but ended choosing basketball. He said he was a fan of softball and talked about how competitive it was getting and congratulated us before heading off to the next room.
“I thought it was really incredible because we were shaking the President of the United States’ hand. To be in the same room as one of the most powerful men in the world and have him take time out of his day to meet with us, congratulate us our season, commend us on our work ethic and handle stress on a daily basis like he does, I thought was pretty cool.”
Gasso said that when she spoke with the President he asked how many games they played in a season, how the current season was going and who the seniors were.
“He shook everyone’s hand and they got to introduce themselves,” Gasso added. “When he got to Michelle [Gascoigne], she introduced herself and he said Michelle was a great name. He was very friendly and engaged with us.”
After the photo opportunity, the team was escorted to the South Lawn where the President gave a short speech to welcome the teams and congratulate them.
“One thing that really stuck with me was that he was appreciative of the female athletes that were there,” Gasso said. “He talked about how far we had come and our role as leaders for the future and young women. I really appreciated that he recognized female athletes and the importance of what we do.”
Once the ceremony had ended, the Sooners headed to dinner before stopping to visit the Lincoln Memorial and then headed back to the U.S. Capitol to see it lit up in the night.
“I talked to Lauren, Jessica Vest and Callie Parsons over dinner and we were talking about some of the things that this team has gotten to do and experience over the last six to eight months,” Gasso said. “It has been amazing. They’ve gotten to do more things in that short amount of time than most people get to do in their whole lifetime.
“I think it all caught up to me when I was standing in that Green Room with this team, this is the last and biggest icing on the cake.”