Cancer-Stricken Costello Inspires Crew Teams From Afar

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When the Cal crew teams defeated Stanford at Redwood Shores, Calif., on Saturday, something stirred them to drive harder and with even more resolve than normal: coxswain Jill Costello.

Costello, a senior coxswain on the women's squad, was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at the end of the 2009 racing season. She has since undergone regular treatments to limit the spread of the disease while remaining a part of Cal crew. After her race last weekend against Washington, Costello traveled to Lourdes, France, a spot which the Catholic Church believes produces medical miracles.

Channeling the tenacity Costello has shown in her yearlong battle with lung cancer, the Cal rowers dedicated the annual Big Row to the graduating coxswain, winning all eight of their contests against the Cardinal.

"During the race I wasn't thinking about anything but repeating, 'Make Jill proud' over and over in my head from start to finish," women's captain Mary Jehgers said.

After a dispiriting weekend against Washington, the No. 1 women's squad and No. 2 men's squad both shined. The Bears swept through No. 6 Stanford women, while the men won all four races against the No. 13 Cardinal.

Even while she was in France on a pilgrimage for health, Costello did not forget about her team. She ran out of dinner on Saturday to check results from the races and posted congratulations to her Twitter.

"@CalWCrew Mission Accomplished," she tweeted.

The women's second varsity eight race against Washington last weekend was her last home race, but Costello is scheduled to come back Tuesday and race during the championship season.

"She's in a tough battle and she's part of the Cal rowing family," men's coach Mike Teti said. "So I think it was really great to see not just our teams-the women's and the men's programs-but the Stanford women's and men's programs dedicating the regatta to Jill."

In last year's Big Row, the rowers wore specially designed uniforms emblazoned with a pink C to promote breast cancer awareness.

This past weekend saw the Cal women don new uniforms and use oars repainted navy blue and turquoise-Costello's favorite color-as they sped down the course with more poise and more power than any race yet this season.

It all came together for the Bears-the technique, the speed, the rhythm. The women's varsity eight crossed the finish line in 6:20.7 with Stanford coming in 3.3 seconds behind.

The men also delivered good results after a hard week of practice. The Bears took home the Schwabacher Cup in the varsity eight race with a time of 5:35.29, nearly 13 seconds better than the Cardinal.


Contact Anna Hiatt at [email protected]

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