Hours of practice and recruiting trips are memories for most Ohio State student-athletes – especially those with a NCAA runner-up finish tabbed on their resume. For Ohio State rower Sara Wallace, the road to becoming a Buckeye student-athlete does not fit the typical outline.
Wallace, a soccer and basketball player at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, Ohio, had always enjoyed sports and competition. Despite offers from many Division II schools to play basketball, Wallace decided she wanted to attend a big university and focus on her school work.
During her first week at Ohio State, Wallace was approached during the career fair to consider becoming a Buckeye rower. The thought passed by and she decided to spend her freshman year surrounded by books, friends and the occasional game of pick-up basketball.
But the decision to bypass college athletics lasted a year before the urge to compete would not disappear.
“I missed sports so much and wanted to compete again,” Wallace said. “The following season, Ohio State had a new novice coach and she emailed me in the summer to see if I would be interested in trying rowing. I decided to give it a try.”
And with that, Wallace’s rowing career begun. She quickly learned the basics of rowing and began her first race as a novice but was quickly promoted to varsity action. By the end of her freshman season, Wallace had moved into the First Varsity Four and was able to compete on the national stage.
“It was an awesome experience to learn rowing,” Wallace said. “I never knew what it was before I began and was able to excel at it. I was able to race at nationals and did not know how to row six months before. I love sports and I love to be part of a team and compete. That was why I was able to do well without experience.”
Following her first season, Wallace was named Buckeye Novice of the Year and began preparing for what was to become a very successful sophomore campaign.
Wallace made her debut in the Second Varsity Eight as a sophomore. Through the season, Wallace and the crew could not be stopped and when the postseason began, the streak continued. The crew placed among the Top 3 at the Big Ten championships and won the Grand Final race at the Central/South Region Sprints to make its way to the NCAA championships.
The Second Varsity Eight and Wallace ended the season with a runner-up finish in the Grand Final of nationals. The finish serves as an all-time best by a Buckeye Second Varsity Eight and placed Wallace in the history books.
“Going into the race, I was a nervous wreck,” Wallace said. “The 2V8 was really strong and we knew we were fast and could win if we stuck together and executed the race plan. We won our heat and went straight to finals. We knew we had really fast boats against us and had to race the best we could. We had a really good race and there was nothing else we could have done. It is pretty cool to be second in the country and only second behind a good program like Brown.”
The opportunities and experience for Wallace are still growing. She is looking to see action in her third national championship this season and still cannot believe the success she has achieved.
“For me, it is cool to see everything I’ve been a part of, knowing if I would have never came back to rowing I would have never had these experiences,” Wallace said. “I’m very grateful I decided to be a rower. It has changed my life. I have great teammates from all around the world and it has been a very rewarding experience for me. It will stay with me forever.”