WESTPORT, Conn. – Westport’s Sami Jurofsky missed last year’s NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships with her victorious Ohio State teammates due to a family matter. But she more than made it up for this year, leading the Buckeyes’ second varsity four to victory as coxswain as Ohio State won its second straight national championship.
“It was a lot more meaningful this year,’’ Jurofsky said. “I was so happy to be more of a part of it this year and that I could make them proud.”
Jurofsky became a major component of Ohio State’s success this year. In 2013, she was the coxswain for the second varsity four, which won a bronze medal at the Big 10 championships. This year, she was the cox for the second varsity four that won a Big 10 championship before moving to the second varsity eight for the NCAA championships. Ohio State also won the first varsity eight race, the signature event in college rowing.
“We had to come from behind,’’ Jurofsky said. “That’s been our pattern all year. Some boats got a pretty good jump on us. I just reminded everyone to stay calm and that in the second half of the race our fitness would hold us.”
Jurofsky first learned her coxswain skills at Saugatuck Rowing Club, where she was the cox for a boys varsity eight. As the coxswain, she’s critical in helping the crew establish its rhythm and letting them know where they stand in the race.
“It’s a little bit of everything,’’ Jurofsky said. “When I tell people I’m a coxswain, they think of that silly commercial with hamsters telling them to row. I’m there to motivate them and take the most effective stroke possible. I tell them where they are in relation to other boats, and try to push them through.”
College is a different level of coxing, she said. Jurofsky said she has gained the respect of the other crew members.
“It’s like you’re put into more of a leadership role,’’ she said. “The coach (Andy Teitelbaum) stresses that he wants me to be the leader of the team. At Saugatuck with the boys, it was a totally different experience. It was a lot harder to gain their respect. I think the other girls on the team respect that we have as much interest in this as they do. I get to work out with them and it helps when they see that I’m pushing myself as hard as they do.”
Jurofsky’s family watched the championships in Indianapolis. Her sister, Carleigh Jade, a 2008 graduate of Staples who tours as the lead with the Carleigh Jade Band, made a surprise visit. Her mother, Hyleri Katzenberg, grew up in Ohio and hails from a family of Buckeyes. They were joined by her stepfather, Marc Katzenberg.
Staples had a distinguished class of 2011, some of whom have gone on to terrific college athletic careers. Few would have predicted Jurofsky to become the one to have the most impact on a Division 1 NCAA championship team.
“Two-time NCAA champion has a nice sound to it,’’ Jurofsky said. “My mom and I never thought a Division 1 athlete would ever come out of our family. We’re too small. It’s a great feeling.”