Sara Cottingham: Life's a journey
Although born in Hawaii, it would be the other non-contiguous state which would play a deciding role in sophomore rower Sara Cottingham's life.
"I had decided I was coming to Texas and when I checked out RecSports, I thought I might stay involved with athletics by doing triathlons or marathons. However, that summer after high school I went on a glacier mountaineering expedition to Alaska with the National Outdoor Leadership School."
During her time in Alaska, Cottingham learned that one of her instructors rowed for the University of Virginia. This simple discovery would change the course of her collegiate career.
"We were all getting to know one another, sitting on top of a glacier at the top of North America and my instructor started talking about collegiate rowing being the best thing in his life," Cottingham said. "Right then and there I told myself that I should look into this if he thinks rowing is better than being among these glaciers. I actually made a decision to try rowing before I ever started classes at UT."
In the fall of her freshman year Cottingham walked on to the UT Novice Rowing team and in that one year she gained enough experience to be promoted to a varsity boat in 2007-08. Not only has she been accomplishing things on the water during her time on the Forty Acres, but as she begins her fourth semester of college she already has enough hours to have graduated this past December.
"My major is geography and I have already completed minors in French and German," noted Cottingham. "I might tack on another major because I am pretty much done with my coursework after starting school as a junior."
Like any 20-year old, Cottingham is not quite sure what she wants to do with her life.
"I don't want to graduate early because I really want to row," she noted. "I'm having a blast. I just don't quite know what path I want to take. I know I could graduate early and go to grad school, but right now all of my classes are fascinating, so even if I just took every class in the Geography department I would be pretty happy."
As a part of her German minor, Cottingham spent the summer of 2007 in Wurzburg, where she studied the language, economics and history of Germany, in addition to gaining international rowing experience.
"I knew that rowing in Germany was a much bigger deal nationwide than it is in the U.S.," Cottingham stated. The town that I was in had two rowing clubs, so I made arrangements to participate with one of the clubs. They let me row a single all summer long and meet with some of their collegiate rowers. I pretty much trained on my own, but it was a really great experience."
After spending the past two summers on Alaskan glaciers and German rivers, Cottingham laughed when asked about what she was going to do in the summer of 2008.
"I don't know exactly, but I would like to go row somewhere, if possible," she stated. "I don't really need the summer school!"
"I spent an entire summer in the Eastern Alaskan range on glaciers and living in tents with a bunch of boys, but it was definitely the most rewarding and also most mentally and physically challenging experience of my life," she said. "However, my instructor's advice about collegiate rowing could not have been truer, as rowing has been everything I thought it would be."