Apr. 17—Let me tell you a bit about a little place nestled at the foot of the Ouachita Mountains in southeast Oklahoma.
I've spent a lot of time around Eastern Oklahoma State College. Growing up, we'd always pass the school on our way to Robber's Cave State Park. I had family and friends attend college there, and I'm a proud alumnus since 2015.
While there, I made some of the best friends I have ever had. Still to this day, that's a circle of people that's become a part of my family. But that sense of family grew exponentially when I took a leap of faith as a student.
The college had just brought its internet radio station to the FM dial, and I wanted to try my hand at putting on the headset. A few games turned into an internship with two of my best friends, which in turn became a full-time job upon graduation.
For more than five amazing years, I spent time covering Eastern sports. And that small town college became my second home. I'll admit it was a little bittersweet to leave when I moved into this job, but I was excited that I would still be able to cover Mountaineer athletics — just in a new capacity.
I'll forever be a Mountaineer. EOSC became a place for me to launch my career of sports journalism at home, and led me to fostering some great relationships with even greater people.
And since I had been involved with Eastern athletics for so many years, I take a lot of pride for the school and it's teams. So it should be no surprise to anyone that I was overcome with joy watching the Lady Mountaineers basketball team this season.
They did something that hasn't been done in two decades — win the Region II Conference Tournament and advance to the NJCAA National Tournament.
There was a lot of emotion involved as Eastern cut down the nets, and when I called coach Al Davis after, I could hear his smile over the phone. I was elated for him and his hard-working team of women.
And how could I not be? As a graduate and former employee, I bleed Eastern blue with the best of them, and have a lot of love for the place that took me in and helped make me who I am today.
Eastern athletics will always have a special place in my heart, and whether its basketball, baseball, softball, or soccer, it fills me with pride to see the next generation of Mountaineers succeed.
So as the EOSC community rallies behind these ladies next week, you can bet I'm going to be right there alongside them. I'm already planning to incorporate a lot of blue and yellow into my wardrobe, and I'm excited for the rest of the country to see what makes this rural Oklahoma school so special.
GO BIG BLUE!
Contact Derek Hatridge at email@example.com.