She can be seen or heard at every Eastern Kentucky University sporting event; usually starting a “Defense” cheer at McBrayer Arena or yelling her distinctive “Oh Yeah!!!” during a softball game at Gertrude Hood Field.
Donna Sowder is known around Richmond and the Ohio Valley Conference as the Eastern Kentucky University Superfan.
Throughout the years Sowder has become a staple of EKU athletics and brings her unique personality and intensity to every game she attends.
Sowder is originally from Estill County, Kentucky and moved to Richmond later in life and has lived here ever since. While she never had the collegiate experience, she understands the importance of having someone in the stands cheering you on and wants to provide that for the student-athletes at EKU.
“I used to compete in bodybuilding. When you got up on that stage and you could hear one person call your name...you feel like you can do anything,” Sowder said.
Sowder has become well known to current students and alumni alike. She has made it to every EKU game she can for the past 15 years.
“Whenever I can move something around to go I do,” Sowder said. “If I ever have to miss a game, it breaks my heart.”
When she is not at a game she is usually working as a personal trainer at her self-owned gym, “Work it out with Donna”. Sowder’s love of EKU athletics started while training one of the women's basketball assistant coaches. The assistant coach invited her to a game and after a bit of convincing she went to the game.
“I went and it just exploded from there I started going to basketball and then softball, baseball, and all of them,” said Sowder.
Her love of EKU athletics is not limited to just the basketball court. She is a regular fan at baseball, football, softball and soccer events. When at any game, she makes it a priority to cheer for specific players. Despite freshman and new names joining teams, Sowder is quick to learn the names of the players and cheer for them by name. The effect it has had on players and families has motivated her to continue to make it a priority.
“One of the pitchers is from Georgia, his mom was so happy, she said we know when we can’t come you’ll be cheering for him,” said Sowder about an interaction at a recent baseball game.
When asked about her motivation for the intensity she brings to games, she had one answer, “I love the kids.” Sowder shared that while she enjoyed being at the games herself her main focus was always the student athletes.
“I don’t do this for nothing but to cheer for the kids. I don’t care what anyone else is doing, I’m focused on the kids,” said Sowder.
When she started cheering for EKU, the opposing teams were not exactly the most excited to have her there. Sowder shared that it hurt her and she wanted to show them she cared about them as well and she told the opposing players, “If I lived where you are, I would cheer for you the same way.” Since then, she has had a more positive reaction from opposing players at games, including some stopping to take pictures with her.
Throughout her time supporting EKU athletics, Sowder has seen a lot of different players and coaches come through EKU and is currently excited for the future of EKU athletics. She is also looking forward to the coming seasons of EKU sports. She believes the next few years for basketball and the next seasons for baseball and softball are going to be really good.
“I’m really excited with Coach Sam (Williams). Everybody is going to see how good of a coach she is,” said Sowder.
Despite the positive viewpoint of EKU athletics, Sowder saw one main point of improvement for EKU athletics, getting more students to attend games.
“I just wish they had more support than they do,” said Sowder.
EKU Superfan Sowder has been a staple of EKU athletics for the past 15 years and has seen the program at low points as well as high points. Regardless of what happens in EKU athletics there is one thing that is certain, Sowder will be there to cheer on the Colonels.
“Win or lose, I’m gonna be there,” said Sowder.
Donna Sowder joined EKU Progress sports staff on the EPic Sports Podcast before the EKU Men’s Basketball team traveled to Evansville for the OVC Tournament. The full podcast with her is available here.