If Sarah Giancola’s collegiate career as a student-athlete could be summarized in a book title, a good choice would be Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
The sport of rowing has taken Sarah to competitions all across the United States. Her education at Park School and Northeastern University have made her a citizen of the world.
Sarah just completed her fourth year at Northeastern. She is enrolled in a five-year program at the Boston school, in the College of Arts and Sciences, working toward a degree in international affairs and cultural anthropology with a minor in Middle Eastern studies.
“My academic world is totally opposite of my rowing world; the people are so different,” Giancola said.
“We have a co-op system, an internship program, at Northeastern. My first co-op was translating for Iraqi refugees coming into this country.
“I got to know so many people who otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to meet. They are either people who helped the American military [in Iraq] in some way or they’re just civilians who wanted to come over to America. A lot of them are doctors, engineers, people who didn’t think it was safe at home and just wanted to leave. I helped them get basic housing, food, and to find schools. I really enjoyed it and am broadening my knowledge of Middle Eastern culture.”
Giancola was captain of her rowing team this year. On April 29 the squad won its second consecutive Colonial Athletic Association championship—and third in four years. The head coach, Joe Wilhelm, was named the CAA Coach of the Year for the second straight year.
“Last year I was in an [eight-person boat] that came in second in the Eastern Sprints. This year our varsity eight came in second in the Eastern Sprints again, so that was two years in a row. It’s kind of the East Coast championship. And my being captain was a big honor.”
Giancola has used up her four years of college athletic eligibility, so she thought she would be done with the rigors of rowing for awhile. It didn’t turn out that way.
In May, USRowing invited Sarah to try out for the Lightweight Women’s Under 23 National Team. She began tryouts in early June and advanced through the U.S. trials, earning a spot on the team that represented the U.S. in the 2012 Rowing Under 23 Championships, held July 11–15 in Trakai, Lithuania. Their boat, the lightweight women’s quadruple sculls, finished fourth in the championships, narrowly missing out on a medal.
One of her teammates on the boat was a University at Buffalo graduate, Cornelia Willis of Clarence. The other boat members were Samantha Brecht (Flourtown, PA.) and Carolina Paini (Newport Beach, CA.).
Sarah said that just trying out for a spot on the national team was an honor she was not expecting. “One of the coaches from the University of Virginia–they are the number-one team in the country–she saw me rowing, talked to my coach,” and recommended that Sarah try out.
“I like training and like working out, so it’s worth it,” she said. “Especially with the friends you make, you go through something that’s pretty time-intensive, pretty taxing overall, and the people you meet and become friends with tend to be pretty good friends. It’s been a long run, but it’s been really fun.”
Sarah’s long run in crew began at Buffalo’s West Side Rowing Club. Her academic passions were first kindled at Park School, where her mom, Tammy Giancola, is head of the math department.
“I felt more than prepared when I got to college,” Sarah said. “The small class sizes at Park meant you got to know your teachers. You could ask anyone if you needed help. When I got to Northeastern I wasn’t afraid to ask for help. I developed a lot of close relationships with professors because of my Park experience.”
In addition to her mom, Sarah mentioned Park language teacher Beth Anne Jeswald as being particularly influential in her life.
“She really helped me with my senior thesis. She was one of the reasons I have such an interest in languages. And she was really there for you if you had any problems outside of school and wanted someone to talk to.
“Then it was Ms. [Kerry] Reynolds and Mr. [Jeremy] Besch. I had Mr. Besch for freshman English. With Ms. Reynolds, I had a course called ‘In Search of the Good Life.’ I learned a lot in that class. She really helped me to think for myself, helped me to question people’s values and things. I learned a lot from those three teachers, but all of my teachers were really good.”