Former DHS tennis player finds her calling – in a boat

First Posted: 7/21/2014

Sam Casto dabbled in multiple sports after moving to Dallas from Florida as a fourth-grader.

It was not until she was temporarily without sports as a student at Georgia Tech that Casto found her calling in athletics.

Less than three years after taking up competitive rowing, Casto is ranked among the sport’s best college-age women in the world.

The 21-year-old, now a junior at the University of Virginia, was in Varese, Italy competing for the United States in the World Rowing Under-23 Championships July 23-27.

Casto represented Team USA in women’s single sculls, finishing 10th out of 21 international competitors, after making the team by winning the single sculls title in June at the Under-23 World Championships Trials in West Windsor, N.J.

“I like rowing because it’s a sport where you’ll get out of it whatever you put into it,” Casto said in an international interview conducted through e-mail while in Italy.

“If you’re willing to put in the time and hard work,” Casto said, “you can really excel in this sport in less time than I think you probably could in other sports.”

As a youth, Casto did not find the sport to which she was ready to commit so completely. She said she “wasn’t especially good at any of them and didn’t stick with one in particular.”

Tennis was Casto’s primary sport in high school. She played for Dallas all four years, serving as co-captain in her senior year. The 2011 graduate also was on the school swim team as a sophomore and junior and played on the club lacrosse team for her last three years before Dallas added it as an official varsity sport.

Maya Oren, the novice coach for Georgia Tech women’s crew, convinced Casto to give rowing a try.

Casto originally considered joining a team as something fun to fill time at college. With time needed to build technique, she did not have any immediate clues of the success that was ahead.

After a year on the club level at college, Casto began improving. She took major strides last summer.

“I didn’t really realize this might be something I was actually fairly good at until last summer when I was training in Philly among some really amazing athletes and gained some really great racing experience,” she said.

Casto has found success in both the team and individual portions of rowing. In her first semester at Virginia this spring, she was part of a team that finished third in the NCAA Championships at the Second Varsity 8.

“It’s awesome when you put together a boat that is so dedicated to each other, they’ll do anything to do well,” said, an aerospace engineering major.

The switch to individual emphasis this summer paid off immediately.

“The really cool thing about being in a single, though, is that any changes you make you can instantly feel,” Casto said. “You can really feel when you’re moving the boat effectively.”

Casto moved her boat more effectively than any under-23 woman in the country this summer and well enough to win one of her four heats in Italy.

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