On April 27, 1988, Carl and Marian Hendershot brought their first child (that’s me!) into the world. My dad won the right to choose my first name, and so I became Sara Jane, lovingly taken from the Hall and Oates song, “Sara Smile”. My parents went on to have three more children – Andrew, Erica, and Caroline – the three greatest siblings a girl could ask for. Our house of little ones was always extremely competitive and very into sports, and I’m told that one of first “tricks” as an infant was to throw my arms up straight above my head whenever someone shouted “TOUCHDOWN!”
My family grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts before we moved to West Simsbury, Connecticut when I was 13. I attended Simsbury public High School where I played soccer in the fall and was on the swim team in the winter. When the spring season arrived my freshman year, I was faced with a dilemma – what would be my spring term sport? All of my friends were joining the lacrosse team, so it seemed like an easy decision. However, my parents suggested I try rowing because I was tall and “didn’t have the greatest hand eye coordination.” But I took their advice, and man, am I glad that I did. I immediately fell in love with the sport and never looked back.
After four spring seasons of rowing for Simsbury and two summers of training with Junior National Team development groups, I was recruited to row in college. In the fall of 2006, I became a Princeton Tiger! However, when I arrived at Princeton I was unaware that the women’s rowing program was rebuilding after their 2006 spring National Championship and the graduation of many talented seniors. So as I fumbled my way through my freshman and sophomore years on the team, I was surprised with many failures, and two very disappointing post-season finishes. It wasn’t until the summer after my sophomore year that I decided to get truly serious about my sport. I was tired of losing, and I knew that I wasn’t a loser. Something had to change, and the only thing I had complete control over was myself. After a summer of extremely hard work, I returned to Princeton the next fall a completely different athlete. It was this new desire to succeed in rowing that pointed me toward the U.S. National Team and down the road to London.
The fitness level I achieved by the end of my Princeton career was enough to get me invited to the Under-23 camp after my graduation in the spring of 2010. At this U-23 camp, I was selected to the women’s four event and won a gold medal at the World Championship that summer in Brest, Belarus. Following my first international competition, I was invited to join the U.S. Women’s Training Center in Princeton, New Jersey where I would train with the National Team in an effort to make the 2012 Olympic team. I was cut from the 2010 Senior Team but was fortunate enough to make the 2011 team where I again competed in the women’s four and won a gold medal in Bled, Slovenia. Now, after two grueling years of training with this ultra-talented group of women, my dream has come true and I am officially an Olympian!
I hope to use this blog to help my friends and family follow me in the remaining month leading up to London. Please feel free to leave comments and questions regarding anything you would like me to write about!