Rowing family unites to ‘Jog for Jill’
Prior to Navy Day Regatta, Quakers will honor Division-I rower who died of lung cancer
October 6, 2011, 12:39 am · Updated October 6, 2011, 12:39 am·
Rowing, a sport in which success or failure hinges on cohesion and synchronicity, is more dependent on teamwork than most other sports.
The boat falls out of rhythm if one rower tries to rise above the rest. Rowers take care of each other, they keep each other in step and they pick each other up when they fall.
Last spring, the women’s rowing team at the University of California at Berkeley fell hard when coxswain Jill Costello was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, a disease that takes no prisoners and has a survival rate of only 15.5 percent.
Costello’s cancer was at the most advanced stage it could be, and her prognosis was bleak. Despite the pain of her treatments and her doctors’ recommendations, she continued to row and led the women’s Varsity 8 to a Pac-10 championship and a second-place finish at the 2010 NCAA Division I Rowing Championships. She died a few weeks later, just a year after being diagnosed.
This weekend, the Penn women’s rowing team will honor Costello’s legacy by participating in ‘Jog for Jill’ prior to racing in the Navy Day Regatta.
The cause is particularly important to women’s coach Mike Lane because he knew one of Costello’s coaches at Berkeley. He wants to be involved for more than personal reasons, though.
“Jill’s story hits home anywhere, it could happen to anyone,” he said. “Being part of a team is like being part of a family and we have to help each other.”
For Lane, Jog for Jill seemed like the perfect opportunity to demonstrate Penn’s connection to that larger rowing family.
“We want to give back,” Lane said, “and this just happened to be a cause that is near and dear to the rowing community.”
Jog for Jill is not the only cause the women’s rowing team supports. Every year, Lane said, the team raises money for low-income families at Christmas and donates toys. Additionally, they do runs and walks for other forms of cancer and ALS disease. Many of the rowers are also members of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
“At the end of the day, it’s about getting as many people involved as possible, and it’s about giving back to the community,” Lane said.
As a way of staying connected to the program, alumni also often come back to get involved when the team does such events.
The program’s participation — both current team members and alumni — in Jog for Jill is only the latest in a long list of ways that rowers prove they understand what teamwork is really about: love, support and the pursuit of victory over opponents, in whatever form that opponent takes.