In honor of the new Sarah Hirst Smith II racing shell that was dedicated this weekend, we asked Sarah to submit a short essay on her background and connection to PRC. From her start on the elite sculling team under the tutelage of Julie McCleery and Emil Kossev, to her own coaching success at Pocock, to her current place on the MC and Women's Master's Team, Sarah is an integral member of PRC and its legacy.
I moved to Seattle in December of 2001, because I had just finished my teaching certification program in GA, and wanted a change of scenery. Since my sister and her family lived in Monroe, I thought I could stay with them until I figured out what to do. On my way across the country, I called up Julie McCleery (who I only knew by reputation) to ask if I could store my 1x at her boathouse. She was coaching at Pocock with Emil Kossev and she asked if I was planning on training for the national team. I said sure, why not, and she said I could bring my boat! I ended up loving it and training with a group of between 10-15 scullers over the next 4 years, making the US team 3 years from 2003-2005. It was awesome.
I have lots of favorite Pocock rowing memories. I love taking my 1x through the Cut with the sky changing from dark to pink, eagles and herons soaring above me. I love being in team boats and finding that surge through the water together. I think the three proudest moments for me at Pocock are: Making my first national team and medaling with other Pocock rowers in the 2003 Pan Am Games (our picture is still on the wall!). Coaching an amazing group of Junior Pocock girls to their first 1st place finish at Jr National Championships in 2006 (that’s right, they didn’t win any races until Nationals). And, finally medaling - getting third place - in the Head of the Charles boat last fall in 2017, as the fastest American crew in the 40+ 8+.
I love the history and tradition of rowing at Pocock, and having gotten to be around Stan and hearing stories about George. I love being with the same people year after year and trying to make our boathouse a little better, a little faster, and a little more unified each year.
Boat dedications are really special to me. The first boat-naming I was involved in was when I was in college at Emory and my mom donated money to help us by a 2x, which we named after my grandmother, Lucile Longview. My mom was also a rower (she started when I started, so she was in her 50s as a novice!) and she helped build the Whatcom Rowing Association. A year after she died, her boathouse in Bellingham named a 4+ after her, the Susan Hirst. Thank you for the honor of having another Sarah Hirst Smith in our boathouse. It means a lot to me.
Congratulations, Sarah! We're so lucky to know and honor you today. Cheers!