DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke rowing team is set for the 2013 ACC Championships in Clemson, S.C., on May 12. Recently, GoDuke.com sat down with senior coxswain Sarah Baker to learn more about the Fairport, N.Y., native.
GoDuke.com: What has been your proudest moment at Duke?
Sarah Baker: I think coming in here freshman year because we had no other senior coxswains, we only had one novice coxswain. Being able to come in and take control, integrate into the team and be a leader when you’re a freshman is not a position that most people are in.
GoDuke.com: What was it like coming in as a freshman and having to basically direct people that’ve been here longer than you?
SB: It’s intimidating at first because you don’t know how the coaches work and I didn’t know the rowers or the coaches. You’re supposed to direct both of them and I didn’t know either of them. It was fun to just throw yourself in there and we made it.
GoDuke.com: How did you get involved in rowing and more specifically a coxswain?
SB: My sister did it. I was a cross country runner in middle school and you can start rowing in eighth or ninth grade. I was always at my sister’s regattas, but I always came for the free food. I would wear a nondescript t-shirt so that I could go to all of the different food tents. Once I got over the food, I realized I actually enjoyed rowing and in ninth grade I joined with a couple of my friends as a rower because I was a cross country runner and wanted cardio. I was the smallest one by like three feet and fifty pounds so they threw me into the coxswain seat and I went from there.
GoDuke.com: What is your favorite class at Duke?
SB: I took an education and anthropology course my sophomore year with Dr. Zoila Airall and that was really eye-opening. It was about what goes on behind the scenes at school. I’ve been in school forever, and it’s talking about all of the social things that shape your experience out of school and student-teacher interactions. That got me interested in education.
GoDuke.com: What are your plans after graduation?
SB: I just got a job with ICF International in Fairfax, Va. They’re a consulting group and I’ll be working as a training specialist for them. It’s like learning theory, but not necessarily in a classroom. I did DukeEngage, which was a literacy project and I’ve done a lot of education stuff since that class.
GoDuke.com: What chore do you hate doing?
SB: Taking out the recycling. It’s so far away.
GoDuke.com: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
SB: Dolphin trainer. All the way. Or a marine biologist, but definitely a dolphin trainer. I was dolphin obsessed, except I grew up in upstate New York. I went in the ocean for the first time when I was nine at the Jersey Shore and freaked out at the waves and decided that it probably wouldn’t work out that well if I didn’t like the ocean. My dreams were crushed.
GoDuke.com: If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would buy?
SB: At home I would try and buy the cottage that my dad grew up in. My siblings and I are all fighting over it and I’d buy it first so I could have it. Then I would buy our team some real bathrooms.
GoDuke.com: If you could play another sport, what would it be?
SB: Badminton. I’m a huge badminton fan. Maybe ping pong. I do have some hand-eye coordination which is shocking given my normal coordination.
GoDuke.com: What advice would you give to incoming freshman at Duke?
SB: Get involved with other things besides academics and athletics. I really tried to broaden my reach after freshman year. It’s more just about establishing your foundation. It’s so important while you’re at Duke to take advantage of it. Like DukeEngage for example, I’m an action mentor. I do some stuff with the Women’s Center, they’re great. There are so many things that you think you don’t have time for, but you can make time for them.
GoDuke.com: What person(s) has been the biggest influence on your life and what have they taught you?
SB: My parents have always been to the races. Even in the beginning when there were no parents there, they’d be the awkward ones and I’d wave from afar. They’ve always come to so many of our races and have always been so supportive of the team and made a lot of food.