DURHAM, N.C. – Before Duke rowing senior Sarah Fletcher enters her final season as a Blue Devil, GoDuke.com reflects back on her time on the water.
As a freshman, Fletcher earned a spot on the 2V8 and held that position throughout the season before transitioning to the V4 her sophomore year and the V8 as a junior.
As a sophomore, Fletcher guided the V4 to a second-place finish at the ACC Championships to help the Blue Devils place second overall, which was the program’s best finish at the event since 2006. Fletcher went on to represent Duke at its first NCAA Championship appearance in 2016.
Last season, Fletcher participated in all six of the spring regattas as a member of the squad’s V8 boat as it captured the Carolina Cup championship title. In the ACC Championship Grand Final, Fletcher and the V8 claimed fourth in a loaded race after placing second in the morning session’s opening heat. Fletcher was named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll.
GoDuke.com recently sat down with Fletcher to reflect on her time at Duke, discuss goals for the upcoming season and learn what DWR means to her.
How did you know coming to Duke was the right decision for you?
SF: “People always ask me: if I could go back and do it all again would I choose another school? Ultimately, when I think about how much Duke has influenced my life and the person who I am now verses who I was when I first came … it seems impossible to think of myself as being anywhere else but here. I know I was meant to come here because there’s nowhere else I could have gone and had the same experience that I have had here.”
What have the relationships you’ve formed here meant to you and how have they added to your experience?
SF: “At the risk of getting highly emotional, this team has and will always be my family. I have been surrounded by the most driven, inspirational and truly remarkable women I think I will ever meet. Specifically, the class of 2018. Together, we’ve been through just about everything you could throw at a group of individuals but three years later, we’re laughing about the hard times and realizing how much better we are because of it. I’ve spent four years and countless hours by their sides. I cannot imagine the person I would have been if I hadn’t come to Duke and met them, nor would I really want to.”
What will a degree from Duke mean to you?
SF: “If there is anything I have learned it is that it is really hard to be an athlete at Duke and that it is equally hard to be a student at Duke. I also know it is extremely hard to be a student-athlete at Duke. So, not to be dramatic, but a degree from Duke will be a physical representation of the work, stress and hours I have endured to graduate from this university.”
What is one lesson Duke rowing has taught you that you will carry over to the rest of your life?
SF: “Who you are right now is not who you always have to be. While this was mainly true for myself as an athlete, it did show me that change is possible wherever you want it.”
What is one team goal you all have for the season?
SF: “Win ACCs. I literally get goosebumps when I think about crossing that finish line in first.”
How has your role changed from being a freshman to a senior?
SF: “As a freshman, I was definitely happy to follow the example of others. I was the only freshman in the 2V8+ for a while. During that time I really tried to learn from the upperclassmen. Now, as a senior, I acknowledge I am not a very good vocal leader, but I do try to lead by example. I try to channel all the things I have learned from previous seniors including: the characteristics I admired, the actions they took to be successful and the values they upheld.”
What does Duke rowing mean to you?
SF: “As a freshman, I could never have anticipated how much this team, my teammates and the coaches would change, challenge and ultimately better me by the end of my four years at Duke. My time with DWR has been, quite frankly, a whirlwind adventure. Duke rowing has been everything to me for four years. It’s very hard to imagine what life looks like without it.”
What is one of your favorite rowing memories from being part of the rowing family?
SF: “My first year at Duke, Virginia was so far beyond our speed it wasn’t even conceivable for us to think about being close to them. My sophomore spring, I raced Virginia in the 1V4. That was one of the best races we had, as a boat, all season. We were three seconds off Virginia and that was just surreal to me.”
How do you plan to lead your team this year and how will you define success?
SF: “There have been few times in this team’s history we thought we could attain goals like winning ACCs. Even in our best year, we didn’t think that was possible. This is the first year we can talk about that as a real possibility. I think this team is building; I love being a part of that. I want to help build this team’s success, culture and identity. I want DWR to keep getting better even after I leave. I want to lead this team to that lasting greatness.”
What role are you embracing this year that you haven’t in past years?
SF: “I have been rowing for nine years and I would say I have only been good for one of them. I feel like I have spent a lot of my rowing career extremely far behind where I should have been. Last year I spent a lot of time learning what it meant to be ‘good’ and finally being able to perform at that level. As a result, I know what ‘good’ looks like and feels like. It isn’t about building myself to that level anymore. This year I’m embracing those expectations I set last season and working to exceed them.”