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COURIER’s new reporter takes on local athletics

Ever since reporter Landus Rigsby took a leave of absence in March, it’s become increasingly apparent that help is needed to cover Claremont’s hopping sports scene.

Mr. Rigsby recently announced his decision to make what started as a temporary medical leave a permanent career shift, embarking on a new path in real estate. With the fall athletics season beginning at Claremont schools, the newspaper’s editors sounded an immediate call for athletic assistance.

Enter Chris Oakley, a longtime Claremonter and student at Claremont Graduate University, with an unassuming manner, a ready smile and a sports-savvy born of years of fandom.

Mr. Oakley’s mother noticed the COURIER was seeking a part-time sportswriter and mentioned it to her son, who has been looking to supplement the position he holds creating a monthly newsletter for Village Network Africa, a nonprofit aimed at fighting poverty in rural Africa. He answered the ad, almost on a whim, and made a good first impression.

The next step was to test his mettle. Mr. Oakley was sent to the August 31 varsity football game, the second of the season, which pitted Claremont High School  against Glendora. From the Wolfpack’s point of view, the game, which ended in a 14-6 loss to the Tartans, didn’t go well. Mr. Oakley’s coverage—which was vivid, showed good momentum and, equally important, made deadline—did.

COURIER editors asked him to stay on, trying his hand at coverage of athletics at CHS, the Claremont Colleges and local private schools.

You may be surprised to hear that, while he has lived in Claremont since he was 5 and has loved sports since he can remember, Mr. Oakley never attended a CHS football game before his recent gig. This is because, while his twin brothers, 21, attended CHS, Mr. Oakley, 26, is a Webb man. There, he played for 3 years on the varsity football team, ascending to the role of captain, played tennis 2 years and ran cross-country one year.

“I hated it,” Mr. Oakley admits of his stint as a runner. “I don’t get those endorphins everyone’s talking about.”

Some people sniff a bit when they hear he went to Webb, Mr. Oakley said. They may consider his background elitist, because the school has a tuition to match its high academic standards. He has no complaints, though, as Webb proved ideal for his temperament.

“I tend to get influenced by my peers. All my friends were trying to get into good colleges, and it definitely raised the bar for me,” he said. “If my peers were skateboarding and skipping school, I probably would have done that.”

Mr. Oakley doesn’t have anything against skateboarding, of course. His true love, though, when it comes to sports, is soccer. He didn’t really have much choice in the matter.

“My dad’s from England, and he forced soccer on me before baseball and football,” explained Mr. Oakley, who began playing soccer at age 4, continuing for years with local outfits like the Claremont Stars and the Foothill Storm.

As one can imagine, the World Cup is a heady occasion in the Oakley household.

“We get up early in the morning to watch it, tape all the games, throw on our jerseys and break open the 6-pack,” he said.

Between a Birmingham-bred father who’s mad for soccer and a home culture that celebrates sports, you might think the Oakley family would turn out an aspiring athlete. Really, though, the family business is medicine.

Mr. Oakley’s father is a doctor and his mother is a nurse practitioner. His sister, 25, is in medical school. Mr. Oakley, who got his bachelor’s degree at Northwestern majoring in psychology and business, looks to follow in their footsteps, albeit with a slight twist. He is pursuing a dual master’s in business and public health at CGU, and hopes to become a healthcare consultant.

“Everyone else in my family is in medicine, so I’ve been hearing about the pitfalls of the healthcare industry my whole life. I have some ideas on how to fix it from the business end,” he said.

Among other aims, Mr. Oakley would like to help mend some of the inefficiencies that have caused health care costs to rise to a prohibitively high rate. He has an unfortunate penchant for getting sports injuries, he shared, the latest of which was a hernia for which he recently had routine surgery.

“I got a bill for $17,000,” he marveled. “That’s a nice car. How does someone in a lower income bracket pay for that?”

Mr. Oakley is serious about health care and is serious about his love of sports, which made his time at Northwestern—among the famously avid athletic boosters of Chicago—a memorable experience.

“Nobody is a Laker’s fan until they win the championship,” he said, noting the Lakers flags that spring up like mushrooms during the team’s great years. “Cubs fans, though, are Cubs fans until they die, even though the Cubs haven’t won a world series since 1908.”

Mr. Oakley is also a serious music aficionado. He’s been playing guitar since he was 12, he shared, taking lessons from local guitarist Larry Jackson. On his downtime, he can often be heard strumming tunes by favorite guitar heroes like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and the gentlemen of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.

Considering he has juggled a part-time job with school for some time now, Mr. Oakley doesn’t have much time for reading or movies. But when he does, he loves a good thriller, whether it’s a spy novel like an installment of the James Bond series or a title by suspense master John Le Carré or a psychologically horrific crime movie like Silence of the Lambs.

With a second job on his plate, Mr. Oakley is likely to find even less time for some of his favorite pastimes. How will he handle the new addition to his schedule? With a bit of perspective.

“I recently realized that with everything in life, don’t do too much and don’t do too little. Everything in moderation,” he said. “It’s pretty practical—you can actually translate that into action. And I’ve only figured it out in the last few years.”

It doesn’t hurt that the COURIER gig carries a focus dear to the heart of this lifelong fan of athletic competition.

“It’s not really work,” he said. “It’s fun to watch sports and write about it.”

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

 

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