Floating isn't for Bloom Rowing: The hard-driving Westminster High graduate is the first in her sport to be named a finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year.

October 14, 1997|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Sara Bloom was exhausted.

After a full day of teaching followed by coaching crew in the afternoon, Bloom was finally able to relax. So she went to the boathouse, hefted a shell about three times her height over her head and brought it to the river for her long, daily row.

As is obvious, Bloom is tenacious, self-motivated and strong -- physically and mentally.

Five months out of Bucknell, now a teacher and coach at the Kent School in Connecticut, she maintains the driven attitude she showed in college. Her work ethic on the river and in the classroom has placed her in an elite category.

Bloom, 23, a Westminster High School graduate and one of the most decorated student-athletes in Bucknell history, is one of 10 finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award, which will be presented Sunday. The award honors a female student-athlete who excels in academics, athletics and community leadership.

Athletically, Bloom became the second woman to be named to USRowing's All-America first team three times. Academically, she graduated magna cum laude with a 3.7 grade-point-average in biology while serving as a member of the student government and five honor societies.

"She really is a perfectionist," said Susan Bloom, her mother. "She does her best at what she loves. She really applies herself that way. It leaves me breathless when I think of how much she squeezed into four years."

But rowing hasn't been a lifelong passion. She never spent much time in a boat before college.

Now Bloom, who was a cross country runner at Westminster, has become sort of a benchmark in the sport after being the first rower honored as a top 10 finalist for the NCAA award.

"After high school, I had my fill of running and didn't know if I would make the cross country team in college, since I was never the star runner," said Bloom, who qualified for the national award by winning the NCAA Pennsylvania Woman of the Year Award. "I just wanted to stay active and be involved with a team. So I picked crew."

She immediately made an impact, competing on the Bison's top women's crew, the varsity eight, as a freshman.

A year later, she won two gold medals at the Patriot League championships and then finished sixth at the Champion International Collegiate Regatta. In her junior year, she helped Bucknell finish second in the Champion Regatta.

Bloom rounded out her accomplishments this summer with gold medals in the American Rowing Championships and the Royal Canadian Henley, the largest international race in the Western Hemisphere.

To compete in those summer races, she joined the Riverside Boat Club in Boston, where she practiced at 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day on the Charles River, following a 9-to-5 stint at a sporting goods store that paid for the rowing.

"Athletically, she has a strong endurance background with running," said Jimmy King, who coached Bloom for three years at Bucknell before moving on to Georgetown. "The other aspect is she's mentally strong. She demonstrated very early, emotionally and physically, of having the desire to pursue rowing."

Besides rowing in college, she involved herself in numerous campus activities. She was a student government representative, a resident assistant, tutor and a Special Olympics volunteer, all of which earned her the Robert Latour Service Award as a senior for extraordinary service to Bucknell and local communities.

"I overextended myself at times," Bloom said. "I think in my junior year I got to a point where I was over my head and needed to take a step back and start looking for a job."

Bloom landed at Kent School, where she teaches four classes and coaches crew and swimming. She is uncertain about her future, weighing such options as graduate school.

But right now, she feels comfortable in her low-key surroundings in Connecticut. However, the nerve-racking national spotlight looms, with the NCAA ceremony in Kansas City, Mo., swiftly approaching.

"Whenever it comes to mind, I try to block it out," Bloom said. "I feel honored. But at the same time, all the awards -- especially the whole NCAA award -- makes me think: Who, me? It doesn't seem real."

NCAA finalists

Sara Bloom, a Westminster High graduate, is one of 10 finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award:

Sara Bloom, Bucknell

Shelly Bartlett, Nebraska

Virginia Bolenhaugh, Seattle Pac.

Lisa Ann Coole, Georgia

Julie Anne Roe, Millikin

Ann Sieckert, Augustana

Natasha Taylor, W. Tex. A&M

Stacey Williams, Wilmington

Meredith Willard, Alabama

Wendy Wolff, Wis.-Parkside

Pub Date: 10/14/97

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