Dreams Into Reality

Patrick Dunn
By Patrick Dunn
Communications Assistant

Growing up in Edmond, Okla., Nina Chism always aspired to go to the University of Oklahoma. Self-proclaimed "Sooner born and Sooner bred," Chism remembers dressing up as an OU cheerleader on Saturdays in the fall to cheer on the Sooners' football team as a young girl. It wasn't until late in her senior year of high school that her dreams began to come into fruition.

A soccer player at Edmond Memorial High School, knee injuries started to pile up for Chism in the latter stages of her high school career. A friend asked her if she would be interested in the sport of rowing but Chism was persistent in sticking with soccer. It wasn't until the second semester of her senior year that she finally gave the sport a shot.

"I thought, 'I'll just do rowing for fun, not a big deal, just for fun,'" Chism recalled. "It was my last semester of high school. On the very first day, I remember the coaches saying, "Do you want to row in college?" I thought, I go to college in three months, I don't know. Then a few weeks later I was like, 'Yeah, I want to do this in college.' I just fell in love with the sport."

"When I found out I was going to be an athlete at OU, that's something I always kind of dreamed of but never thought it would be a possibility."
- Nina Chism

She began to row with the Oklahoma City Riversport club team and in a few short months, the University of Oklahoma came calling. Chism accepted the offer to row at OU and her dreams quickly became reality.

"When I found out I was going to be an athlete at OU, that's something I always kind of dreamed of but never thought it would be a possibility. Now, I'm here and it's been amazing," Chism said.

Now, as a senior on the Sooners rowing team, Chism is beginning to take it all in as she approaches her final spring season as a student-athlete in Norman. Chism has rowed on the varsity team all four years of her career and compiled numerous top-five finishes at Big 12 Championships to go along with All-Big 12 and College Rowing Coaches Association academic accolades.

"Nina has made a significant impact in her time at OU," said Oklahoma rowing head coach Leanne Crain.  "She's a consistent force and strong leader on the team, always striving for excellence in all areas of her life. She's an inspiration to others and I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with her, get to know her wit and humor, and share so many memorable moments over the past four years."

To understand just how inspirational the Edmond native's story is, you must go back to her childhood. Chism, the daughter of Rhon and Donna Chism, was adopted before birth.

"I was born here in Oklahoma and my adoption was set up beforehand. My parents already knew they would adopt me before I was born," explained Chism.

The daughter of two white parents, Chism, who is African-American, also has an adopted sister, Mia, who is Asian. It never phased Chism growing up and it wasn't until she got older that she began to wonder.

"I'm black, both my parents are white and my older sister, she's Asian, so once I got older I kind of took a step back and was like, 'Oh, we don't really look like other families,'" Chism remembers. "It's all I've ever known. They've always supported me just as any parents support their children. I'm grateful to have been adopted. I don't know where I would've been."

Chism is grateful for the life her parents helped give her and she sets her own expectations on where she wants to go following her rowing career.

Nina Chism

A health and exercise science major, Chism looks to get into nursing school this spring and go into public health nursing. She is even considering the possibility of being a nurse in the United States Navy.

If her past is any indicator of her future, Chism can do whatever she sets her sights to. Right now, that is continuing to be a senior leader for her team and helping the squad get to the 2019 NCAA Rowing Championships in Indianapolis.

"That (NCAAs) has been our goal these past couple years and each year we've gotten so close," says the senior. "We just need that extra little push to get us there. We've been working really hard. I'm hoping to get there and hoping to be really fast and competitive in the spring. As far as individual goals, every day I just try to give 100% of what I have and help my team."

Reminiscing on her time as a Sooner as the chapter comes to a close, Chism credits the university and those closest to her for making it a memorable experience.

"I've been so lucky to have the resources we have. It's been an amazing experience," concluded Chism. "It's gone by so fast, but I've loved every moment of it. I'm glad I decided to come to OU. I love OU and I've been fortunate enough to surround myself with friends and family."