Of the 50 or so women who try out for the Bucknell University crew squad each year, usually only one or two have any kind of rowing experience.
Sara Bloom, who ran cross country at Westminster High, was just another face in the crowd at Bucknell three years ago when she decided to try something different.
"I don't know how I got started on the team. I ran all through high TTC school and knew I wasn't going to run in college, so I just wanted to try something new," she said.
"Running in high school, with the close team we had, I knew I wanted to stay active. There's nothing quite like the teamwork needed in crew. Everyone's doing the same thing at the same time and the coordination needed as a team never ends."
Now a junior captain for the school's two women's lightweight boats, Bloom stands alone.
This year, she became the first female crew athlete from Bucknell to be named to the U.S. Rowing Association's Collegiate All-America first team. The award recognizes academic and athletic excellence.
As a biology major, Bloom carries a 3.9 grade-point average and was one of nine female athletes named to the first team. She's also a resident adviser and a sorority member and has helped in preparations for the celebration of the school's 150th anniversary.
"Sara's an outstanding student who's done very well in rowing and also is very active in other school activities," said Bucknell crew coach Jim King.
"It's quite remarkable how extremely involved she is on campus, along with such a demanding major and crew taking a lot of her time. It's amazing how she manages all that and can be as successful in academics and rowing as she is."
King said many of those who try out for crew have a running background. He said a rigorous 10-day tryout process identifies potential rowers, with between 12 and 18 making the varsity team.
"Rowing is a combination of endurance and strength," he said. "Some of our top athletes have strong running backgrounds in high school.
"In her first year, Sara showed strong promise and a lot of that came from her running background. She's continued to progress every year."
Bloom said training for the sport never ends, with the prime season being the spring, when the team competes in a number of regattas.
Last season, she was a member of the gold-medal boat at the Mid-Atlantic collegiate championships. Members of lightweight boats must weigh under 130 pounds. Bloom rows as No. 7 in her eight-person shell and No. 3 in the four-person boat. In each, she is expected to help the stroke, who sits in the last seat, establish the rhythm.
The fall season is more of a tune-up for spring, and Bloom spends a lot of the winter working on a rowing machine. In the summer, there is running, weightlifting, swimming and bicycling.