Road games are road games for Kate Harry. And so are home games.
It takes 6-7 hours for the devoted Missouri mom to drive in to Chicago from her hometown of Columbia for a DePaul women's basketball home game.
It's a trek of interstate monotony, capped off by tedious rush hour traffic around the city, but Harry is undaunted.
Witnessing her daughter Katherine's every post move, every rebound and every blocked shot has been a priority for the last four years.
Harry has tried to juggle her schedule at several part-time jobs with her personal mission of attending every single one of Katherine's college games.
Mission (oh-so-close to being) accomplished.
Katherine Harry, a 6-foot-3 center who leads the Big East in rebounding (10.8 rpg) and scored her 1,000th point and grabbed her 1,000th rebound this season, is now a senior at DePaul and will play in her final home game at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Lincoln Park on Tuesday against Georgetown. She'll also lead the host Blue Demons against No. 2 Notre Dame on Sunday.
Of course, her mom will be there for both games.
Amazingly, Kate Harry has been to all but two of Katherine's 129 college basketball games in person. And she would have made those but for some extenuating circumstances.
To be clear, we're talking home games AND road games here. And DePaul is in the Big East, which means not-so-easy trips to places such as Providence and Syracuse and South Florida every other year.
The Blue Demons have also made nonconference trips to far-away places like Hawaii and the Virgin Islands for tournaments. And Harry has been in the stands there, too.
“My mom bought a new car as I was going into college and she had to trade it in because it had 200,000 miles on it within two years,” laughed Katherine Harry, who has started 114 of the 129 games of her career. “Obviously, she also flies a lot, too.
“When I was younger, I don't think I realized what it took for her to do this, the finances or the time.”
“She wakes up a 4 a.m. sometimes so she can get a flight back after one of my games and then she'll go into work for the rest of the day. I don't take it for granted now. I feel really lucky that her work allows her to do this, and that she wants to do it. It would be weird to look up in the stands and not see her up there.”
The first time that happened was early in Katherine's freshman year. Kate Harry, who is a middle school athletic director and substitute teacher, does clerical work for an adoption agency and also works in the University of Missouri's development office, was swamped with her work and didn't go to DePaul's game at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“I tried to follow along online, but it drove me crazy that I didn't really know what was going on in the game,” Harry said. “So I decided that I was going to try really hard to make every game after that.”
The only other game Harry missed was DePaul's game at Louisville when Katherine was a sophomore. She was on her way to the airport when she got stuck in the snarl of a horrible traffic accident that practically shut down the highway. She missed her flight.
There have been other travel adventures along the way, but Harry handles them with ease, and often on her own since her husband isn't able to make many trips due to work.
For instance, Harry's flight to Connecticut a couple weeks ago was diverted to LaGuardia in New York City because of the huge snowstorm that was pounding the East Coast. But she immediately rented a car and made it to the game in Hartford just in time.
Two years ago, her flight to Syracuse was diverted to Scranton, Pa., due to a snowstorm. She rented a car in Scranton and drove through the snowstorm all the way to Syracuse. She arrived late, but was able to see the second half.
It's a good thing there were no weather mishaps for the Syracuse game this year because it was at Syracuse in January that Harry witnessed her daughter collect both her 1,000th career point and 1,000th career rebound within minutes of each other in the Carrier Dome.
Moments after the game, Kate Harry was clutching the game ball that Syracuse gave to her daughter as a keepsake.
“That was really neat. I'm glad I was there for that. For me, I've just always wanted to support Katherine,” Kate Harry said of her youngest of four children. “She used to tell me, 'You don't have to come to every game.' And I'd say, 'I know. I want to.'
“I'm so blessed that I've had the resources to do this and that I have an understanding spouse in my husband Bruce and understanding employers. There are certainly other things I could do with my time and money, but this is a priority for me. I see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to do something like this.”
Harry, who coached Katherine all through grade school, is a basketball junkie, who loves being around the sport. In fact, the middle school where she teaches named its court after her because of the 25-plus years she has devoted to the basketball programs there.
But it's not just the lure of good basketball that keeps Harry so devoted to her current mission. It's the precious time spent with her daughter, which is certainly appreciated on the other end.
“My mom and I were close when I was in high school, but I think this has made us even closer,” Katherine Harry said. “I love it that I get to see her so much.
“She is my biggest fan and supporter and she's our team's biggest fan and supporter. I think my teammates really love seeing her up in the stands, too. She'll bring treats for us after the games sometimes. She gives my teammates high-fives after the games. Everyone loves that. I don't want this to end.”
Basketball at DePaul will in fact end soon. But Katherine says that the unique bond she shares with her mom through basketball might not have to.
Katherine would like to play professionally, and is interested in the leagues overseas for next season.
“My mom and I were talking about what she would do when basketball was over and how there would be no more games for her to go to,” Katherine Harry said. “We were joking that she might just have to come overseas and live with me.”
Kate Harry, who expects to be crying on Senior Night on Tuesday, laughs at that one.
“Well, that probably won't happen,” Harry said of an address change. “But wherever Katherine is, I'll support her. If she's playing overseas, I'll go to some games. I could definitely see myself flying over there to stay with her for a couple of weeks.”
Harry certainly knows her way to the airport. Consider it a done deal.
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