May 28, 2009

When Yale University's Christina Person lost her passion for one sport, she quickly found it with another.

A life-long swimmer, Cincinnati, Ohio native, arrived on the campus in New Haven, Conn., four years ago set to be a middle-distance freestyler on the Bulldog squad. Person had suffered a knee injury and underwent two surgeries before her freshman year, and her push to rehabilitate became her focus rather than acclimating herself among her new team.

"It was a bump in the road that I don't think I ever recovered from," said Person. "At the same time, I swam my freshman year and completed the season with personal best times and was one of the best on the team in my events. The pieces were there for me to continue, but for some reason my heart just wasn't into swimming anymore."

Person then discovered rowing when some friends on the crew team suggested she try out for the sport. "I was always looking for new things, so I tried it," said Person. "I went to a practice and did the workout, and I was good at it. It was fun, and the team was energetic and exciting and I got drawn in. I finished swimming in February, and then went to Florida with the crew team for spring break and immediately fell in love with the sport and the team."

Yale's novice coach Kate Maloney met Person at the school's indoor training facility for 30 minutes every day before swim practice.

"She taught me all the technique and it came pretty naturally," said Person. "It might have been because I had that one-on-one coaching, but something just felt right physically - my body just knew what to do."

Person, chosen team captain this season, earned a spot on the Bulldogs' second varsity eight crew as a sophomore and has been a member of the varsity eight for the last two years. Yale won the varsity eight NCAA title with Person as a member last year, and has compiled an 18-2 record over the last two seasons.

"I don't think I really understood until the end of my junior year what it means to be on this kind of team in this type of team sport," said Person. "I think I was still holding on to some of my individual training ideas.

"When you get into a crew that you trust 100 percent and start to understand the team dynamics, it is sort of liberating and you can find a whole new level of speed with these people that you trust so much. It's something you wouldn't be able to do on your own. It was hard at first that I wasn't in complete control of the results of my race, or that I can't completely dictate how my practice goes." Person graduated last week, and after attending Officer Candidate School last summer, the Modern Middle Eastern Studies major is set to enlist in the Marine Corps in September.

"I've known since I was little that I wanted to be in the military," said Person. "I tried to enlist after high school, but my parents encouraged me to go to college first. Officer Candidate School held no commitment and it was like an internship with the Marine Corps. It reaffirmed for me that the military would be the correct combination of physical and mental challenges."

But before Person heads off to Basic Training, she has one final goal at Yale to accomplish - take home another NCAA Championship.

"I think we're over the fact that we won last year - we're just ready to row 2,000 meters and that's all we want to do," said Person. "We have eight seniors going to NCAAs this year, which is one-third of our squad, and the eight of us feel the urgency and feel the end so near. We don't want our hard work from this year to go to waste."

The Bulldogs' varsity eight crew is seeking their third straight NCAA title, and begin competition on May 29. Yale went 8-1 during the dual-race season and then captured the Eastern Sprints title by less than a second over Radcliffe two weeks ago. The NCAA Rowing Championships will be held on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J., on May 29-31.