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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 12:16 pm | Fog/Mist 54º


Olympians Kami Craig, Caroline Burckle Take Center Stage at Women & Girls in Sports Luncheon

The athletes share their personal journeys in their respective sports as part of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table event


In a celebration of women in sports, the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table welcomed Olympic medalists Caroline Burckle (swimming, 2008) and Kami Craig (water polo, 2008, 2012 and 2016) to the 2019 Women & Girls in Sports Luncheon held recently in Warren Hall at the Earl Warren Showgrounds.

Both women, who excelled at the highest levels of their sports, participated in a panel discussion moderated by Catherine Remak of K-LITE.

The event was presented by Title Sponsor Cottage Concussion Clinic with additional support from the Volentine Foundation and the George Ben Page Foundation, as well as numerous table sponsors and media sponsors, including Noozhawk.

Event co-chairs Alison Bernal and Laurie Leighty organized the noontime luncheon along with committee members Cara Gamberdella, Sarai Anderson, Gene Deering, Diane O’Brien and Susan Salcido.

Part of the SBART’s regular meetings is to recognize the student Athletes of the Week.

Noozhawk Sports Editor Barry Punzal recognized Athletes of the Week Kade Uyesaka of Dos Pueblos High School, a CIF division runner-up and a three-time Channel League champion wrestler, and Carpinteria High School water polo player Kate Gay, who made 20 saves in a quarterfinal victory over Chadwick.

Punzal also gave a shout-out to the Santa Barbara High and Carpinteria girls water polo teams, which advanced to the CIF semifinals, and to the first-year girls wrestling programs at Santa Barbara, Dos Pueblos and San Marcos high schools.

Co-chair Bernal welcomed the 500-person crowd.

“We are here today to celebrate Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which is a federal law that states that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance," she said.

2019 Women & Girls in Sports Luncheon
Event emcee Catherine Remak, center, with event co-chairs Alison Bernal, left, and Laura Leighty. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

From the podium, Patti Overgaard, director of the Cottage Children’s Pediatric Clinics, added, “It is great to see so many strong, smart and beautiful girls in this room today.”

Craig, a Santa Barbara High alumna and three-time Olympian, described how her mother put her in the pool at age 3 because she had so much energy.

“The pool is a place to be loud and free," Craig said. "I started swimming competitively at age 4. I love being part of a team.”

By age 12, Craig played with the Santa Barbara Water Polo Foundation and went on to play and compete in water polo and swimming at Santa Barbara High School.

After swimming for the University of Southern California, she played for 13 years as a center on the Women’s USA Senior National Team, competing in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.

“I was only in high school when I started training for the Olympics," Craig said. "I was terrified, but I trusted in myself and went for it. I encourage all the young women here today to do the same.”

Kentucky native Burckle is an Olympic bronze medalist in swimming from the 2008 Beijing Games and a world and NCAA champion.

“I felt very at home in the water," she said. "I actually don’t have much eye-hand coordination, so I couldn’t do a sport with a ball. So swimming was perfect for me."

Burckle also swam competitively at an early age and made the Junior Nationals at age 13.

“I think anyone can go to the Olympics," Burckle said. "You have to want it. It’s all about mindset.”

Burckle earned a master's degree in sport psychology and an associate of arts degree in product development. She has stepped away from defining herself as only an athlete and has become an entrepreneur. She built RISE Athletes, a mentorship program where Olympians provide mindset training and holistic development experience to youth athletes from all over the globe.

Craig also is a mentor with the program. Additionally, she is the co-founder of Camps 4 Champs, which empowers young women through a love and passion of water polo and to explore what it means to be a team rather than just being on a team.

The Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table hosts more than 450 local female high school and college athletes and their coaches at the annual luncheon that celebrates National Women and Girls in Sports Day, the enduring impact of Title IX legislation, the importance of sports and fitness participation for all girls and women, and the outstanding female athletes in the Santa Barbara community.

SBART provides a public forum for area athletic coaches and athletes; grants financial support to organizations, teams and individuals to further their participation in sports; and publicly honors athletic performance, scholastic achievement and exemplary ethical behavior.

First conceived in 1968 by Jerry Harwin, Caesar Uyesaka and Bill Bertka, SBART today gives more than 1,000 student-athletes and coaches a well-deserved pat on the back each year by publicly recognizing and honoring achievement in athletics and scholarship through Monday Press Luncheons, Hall of Fame, Evening with the Athletes and monthly awards for Scholar Athletes, Phil Womble Ethics in Sports and Special Olympics Athlete of the Month.

SBART also has partnered with the Positive Coaching Alliance to bring seminars free of charge to local youth sports organizations and high school athletic departments.

Click here for more information about the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, or email SBART board president Gene Deering at [email protected].

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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