Sam Casto helped the University of Virginia crew team become among the best in the country this season.
When she turned her rowing concentration to individual competition this summer, the 2011 Dallas graduate wound up competing with the best in the world.
Casto finished 10th in the women’s single sculls Sunday at the World Rowing Under-23 Championships in Varese, Italy where she was representing the United States.
Relatively new to the sport that she began at Georgia Tech, her first college stop, Casto has already experienced team and individual success on the national and international level as a 21-year-old.
During her first semester at the University of Virginia this spring, Casto was part of a third-place finish in the Second Varsity 8 at the NCAA Championships.
“When you’re in an 8 or a 4, or any team boat, you have the people around you motivating you and you’ve all worked so hard together,” Casto said during an e-mail interview from Italy with the Times Leader. “It’s awesome when you put together a boat that is so dedicated to each other they’ll do anything to do well.”
In those races, adjustments, feedback and encouragement come from a coxswain, the team member responsible for steering the boat.
Casto was solely responsible for her own success this summer when she decided to focus on rowing the single and wound up earning a U-23 National Team berth by winning the World U-23 Championships Trials in West Windsor, N.J. in June.
“In a single, it’s very different because it’s just you,” Casto said. “The really cool thing about being in a single though is that any changes you make you can instantly feel.
“You can really feel when you’re moving the boat effectively.”
Casto moved her boat effectively enough to win one preliminary heat and finish second in another. She was one of 12 still in title contention going into the weekend from an original field of 21.
When Casto finished last in her heat of six Saturday and had the 11th-best time of 12 semifinalists, she was placed in Sunday’s B Final to determine seventh through 12th place. Casto took a lead of less than a second after 1,500 meters in the 2000-meter race, but wound up fourth in the heat, just 1.12 seconds behind the leader to finish 10th overall.
Casto, who was born in Boca Raton, Fla. and moved to Dallas at 9-years-old. She was a four-year player and senior co-captain on the Mountaineers tennis team. She also played three years on what was then a club lacrosse team and participated in high school swimming for two years.
The aerospace engineering major was without a sport when she arrived at Georgia Tech, but Mayo Oren, the novice coach for Georgia Tech’s women’s crew convinced her to give the sport a try. Less than three years later, she is on the fast track toward the top of rowing.
Although it was difficult to get the technique down at first, Casto saw great progress last summer while training with other top athletes in Philadelphia.
“I like rowing because it’s a sport where you’ll get out of it whatever you put into it,” Casto said. “If you’re willing to put in the time and hard work, you can really excel in this sport in less time than I think you probably could in other sports.”