Senior Ashley Clarke wins first boxing match as first female to box on behalf of OSU

Ashley Clarke ducked under the ropes and stepped into the boxing ring, adrenaline pulsing through her veins.

Her first fight.

Two-and-a-half years of training stood behind her, her coaches stood next to her and fellow boxing club members cheered around her.

She began to fight -- as the first female to represent Oregon State University.

Three two-minute rounds of gloves hitting flesh and padding came to an end as the final buzzer echoed through the Life Community Church, where the fight took place.

She won by a unanimous decision.

The referee swung her arm into the air as the crowd roared.

"Being in the ring is the most surreal, thrilling, terrifying, exciting and best feeling blasting through you in one giant ambivalent mess," said Clarke, a senior member of the OSU/Corvallis boxing club.

Clarke started boxing as a freshman when the husband of her military instructor came to teach a basic introductory boxing class.

She loved it and later approached the boxing coach, Dan Dunn. Soon after approaching Dunn, Clarke and another student, Caleb Lau, found themselves as the first two members of the boxing club.

They practiced in the basement of the Life Community Church.

From there, Clarke, Dunn, Lau and others cleaned out a storage garage that the Life Community Church donated, put up dry wall and constructed the gym they use now.

The club has more than 35 members in 2014.

Clarke attributes this success to the generosity and hours of work Dunn has fueled into the club and gym.

"What I love most about the gym is that, no matter what you are going through, no matter how difficult, everything difficult goes away," Clarke said. "(Dunn) always says leave your problems at the door, because we are here to box. The gym is like a sanctuary."

Clarke was humble about being the first female to box for the club. It didn't cross her mind. She was focused on the match.

"I just thought of myself as just another boxer stepping up to the ring," Clarke said.

To prepare for her next fight, she will turn to her fellow club members and coaches, who she views as family.

"There is also something to be said about the bond you can make by sparring each other, and then two minutes later being able to laugh with them about how they gave you a bloody nose," Clarke said.

Clarke plans to fight again during the spring alongside other club members. In the meantime, she will be practicing with the coaches she looks up to and the club members who inspire her.

"Our coaches teach us to go beyond our limits, to believe that we can do anything we put our minds to," Clarke said.

Courtney Gehring

Greek and clubs reporter

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