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Webster basketball player started college career after sexual assault
Correction: The original article quoted Webster University professor Larry Furrer as saying “You would think about it every time she had made a good play. But did we ever mention it? No.” Furrer did not say this. The Journal apologizes for misquoting Furrer.
Kaliann Rikard never jogs west of the Webster University campus anymore. She would only exercise on a track next to a high school for three years after her first weekend on Webster’s campus in 2010.
She was less than a mile and a half west of campus, at the corner of Gray Avenue and Jackson Road when she was grabbed and sexually assaulted.
She said the experience is “all a blur.”
Her passion for basketball and drive to succeed in it was what got her up at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2010. No team activities were planned that day, but her anxiety and nerves to improve her game every day pushed her to run.
A Journal article from 2010 stated that a then publically-unnamed Webster student (Rikard) was sexually assaulted while on a jog through Webster Groves. A police report stated a “male subject pulled the female behind some bushes and touched her inappropriately.”
No arrests have been made concerning the assault.
Video by Sam Masterson
Rikard ran back to campus, got in her car and drove around Webster Groves. Her mind was filled with thousands of thoughts she no longer remembers. She called her mother not really knowing but she didn’t really know what she was doing.
“She was just hysterical,” her mother, Kelly Rikard said. “I couldn’t really understand what she was saying, but I told her to just get to a big parking lot with people there and wait for me.”
Kaliann Rikard’s hands didn’t leave the steering wheel of her parked car for the hour and a half she waited for her parents. Still in their pajamas, Kaliann Rikard’s parents drove from Cuba, Mo. to their daughter in a Lowe’s parking lot in Kirkwood.
“I was just in a panic mode,” Kaliann Rikard said.
Kaliann Rikard chose to move back home to escape and, hopefully, forget that morning.
“She was a different kid then,” Kelly Rikard said. “It just kinda knocked the wind out of her.”
Kaliann Rikard lived at home for only a week, but Kelly Rikard didn’t see the same daughter she had just taken to college. She received a call while at work from her daughter who wanted back into the life she nearly dropped out of.
Kaliann Rikard had already called Women’s Basketball Head Coach Jordan Olufson and said she wanted basketball back in her life.
“She missed it,” Olufson said. “I knew when she left it was going to hurt us, but I didn’t want her to think we forgot about her.”
He said he was often in contact with Kaliann Rikard through her two-week absence from school. Rikard said if it wasn’t for his care, she would not have returned.
“He did more for me than I could ever describe,” Rikard said.
Closing a career
Grant Gymnasium was packed Feb. 22 for a pre-game ceremony to honor the four-year careers of seniors Kaliann Rikard and Courtney Pursley. Senior night symbolized more than a career on the basketball court for Kaliann Rikard and the few people who knew her past.
“She makes some nice driving shots or something and it pops into your mind and you say look at what she’s done here, look how she’s doing,” Webster Professor Larry Furrer said.
Olufson found his senior guard and embraced her with a hug after the win over Eureka College.
“That was probably one of my proudest moments as a coach,” Olufson said. “To look back on all she went through, she has really come a long way.”
Kaliann Rikard shared her senior night with her four-year teammate and best friend.
“I just never thought we could be like this,” Pursley said.
Their relationship came a long way since they first saw each other in college. Kaliann Rikard said she grabbed her mom when she saw Pursley in line to have her Webster I.D. photo taken.
“I said, ‘Mom there is no way I can play with or even go to school with her (Pursley),’” Kaliann Rikard said.
In the summer of 2010, before they became teammates, they knew each other through a bitter five-year rivalry.
Kaliann Rikard began playing basketball in fourth grade. She remembered through grade school playing a team every year from Lonedell, Mo. Rikard said the opposing coaches were intense, their fans were unbearable and the players were obnoxious. The Lonedell team’s best player was Pursley.
The teammates unknowingly both enrolled in Furrer’s freshman seminar class. But when Kaliann Rikard did not show up the first two weeks, Pursley covered for her. Furrer said Pursley would say Kaliann Rikard was just late or really busy. Kaliann Rikard never knew Pursley had her back that way before their friendship began.
“I actually didn’t talk to any of the girls at first,” Kaliann Rikard said. “I think (Pursley) just did that because she knew we were teammates.”
Kaliann Rikard had not told Pursley or any team members about the assault. But she believed the team knew it was her, and it was not just a coincidence she dropped all her Webster classes and left the same time a story with an unnamed victim was published.
Furrer received an email from Kaliann Rikard to explain she had left Webster due to the assault. Kaliann Rikard sent a similar email to all her teachers and vowed to make up the work and catch up with her classes.
Furrer allowed her back into his seminar, but said he did not make the coursework any easier on her. Furrer set up a schedule for her to make up the work she missed and expected her to continue to turn in her other class work on time.
“She was backed up,” Furrer said. “But she was an excellent student, and she made it up.”
Furrer has been one of the biggest Webster Athletics supporters in the last 20 years. He has rarely missed a women’s basketball game since 2001 and estimates he’s seen at least 600 Webster athletic events in his life. He took an interest in Kaliann Rikard before she was even a student.
He complimented Kaliann Rikard on her improved free throw shooting after a game her freshman year. She had no idea how he knew she had worked on her form earlier that season. He said he compared it to her high school stats, like he does for many freshman athletes.
Furrer said in a game at Blackburn College, Kaliann Rikard missed back-to-back free throws after she saw him enter the gym.
“I said, ‘Listen to me, you don’t pay any attention to anyone,’” Furrer said. “‘You don’t worry about anything I say. Just concentrate.’”
She said Furrer was her biggest fan at Webster. And his guidance helped her to attain a top 10 career record for number of free throws made.
“He was amazing,” Kelly Rikard said. “He has been the biggest cheerleader for her and supported her because he knew what happened. I can’t say enough about it.”
Furrer said the largest change he noticed in Kaliann Rikard through the four years was her discipline on the court. Kaliann Rikard acknowledged how she has toned down her comical personality.
Kaliann Rikard showed her playful antics in her freshman year warm-up routine with Pursley. While the team was taking layups and jumpers, the two rookies tossed half-court shots and used basketballs as dodge balls.
Furrer said Kaliann Rikard was similar in class around Pursley.
Olufson said Kaliann Rikard was and still is the team’s class clown.
In a November 2013 practice, Olufson held a padded blocker under the basket and used it to create contact with his players as they performed layups. But he seemed to always shove Kaliann Rikard a little harder. After making one layup, she turned and with a smile, pushed Olufson in the back as if she wanted to rub in her successful try over his assertive defense.
But the competitive side of their relationship is outweighed by compassion. None more than when Kaliann Rikard left campus after the assault.
Olufson contacted each of her professors and vouched for her to make up the work she missed. She said she most appreciated him for his understanding and for not punishing her after leaving the team.
Kelly Rikard said it took a long time for her daughter’s true basketball game to return. Each year she saw more of her daughter’s “Give her hell” attitude.
“It’s been a long journey,” Kelly Rikard said. “But she is good.”
Kaliann Rikard will graduate in May with a degree in educational studies. She has applied for graduate assistant positions throughout the Midwest en route to a Master’s. She said she wants to be a juvenile probation officer and mentor young people in juvenile correctional facilities.
She has applied to universities as far away as South Dakota or as nearby as William Woods University in St. Louis. But each school has a basketball program she is interested in assisting.
The largest thing she will take from Olufson is to always keep her door open.
“You could always talk to him about anything – like in my case, what happened to me,” Kaliann Rikard said. “We gained a lot of respect that way, and in practice we were more inclined to listen to him.”