Row, row, row until it hurts

It takes the best of athletes years and sometimes decades to reach national-level competition. It took Petaluma High School senior Sam (Samantha) Lamos a year and a half.

The 17-year-old Lamos has been chosen to participate in U.S. Rowing's High Performance Camp, an invitation extended to only 30 girls across he nation. The High Performance Camp could possibly lead to a spot on the U.S. Junior National team. It is pretty deep water for a girl that, less than two years ago, was a devoted soccer player.

It took just one visit with a friend to a North Bay Rowing Club practice to convince her that rowing was the sport of her future, although she wasn't sure the club wanted her after that initial experience.

"The first day I thought I did awful, and I wasn't sure they wanted me back," she recalls. "But after the practice, coach Whalen (Will) told me to be sure to come back."

She did come back and has kept coming back for a year and a half, growing not only to become skilled in the sport but to love it as well.

"What's not to like?" she says. "It is one of the hardest things you will ever do. If you don't mind waking up at a God-awful hour, having blisters on your hand and having your butt hurt, it is great."

Lamos explains that while rowing is doing your best as an individual, it is also about teamwork, whether it is in an eight-person boat or, her favorite, a two-person boat. "The teamwork aspect is important," she explains. "Your all have to work together to be successful."

Her partner in the two-person boat is Danielle DeBois. Lamos says they immediately developed a rapport. "We won our first race, which was really cool," she notes. The duo reached the semifinals in regional competition, an impressive accomplishment for a local team.

Lamos says there is really no secret to her success.

"I work really hard," she explains. "I put my all into everything I do and I never give up. If you have the willingness to push yourself, you can do really well in rowing. Of course, it definitely helps to be 5-foot 11. It gives me a longer stroke."

Another key for the Petaluman is consistency. "You have to find kind of a level and you have to relax and think about nothing but rowing. It is definitely a mental thing."

Whalen says Lamos has both the talent and the disposition to be a standout rower. "She is a naturally talented athlete," he points out, "but she also has the drive to be good. Her competiveness showed from day one. She is driven to be the best on the team."

Rowing is Lamos' passion, but it isn't her only interest. An outstanding student with a 4.3 grade point average, she comes from a family of artists — her mother is a painter and her father designs large scale fountains. She has an aunt who is a fashion designer.

After completing her senior year, she is looking forward to attending either the University of California at Berkeley or UCLA but isn't sure what her major will be. Because of her family background she is considering studying graphic design but is also drawn toward political science.

"I like being creative," she says, "but I also want to be politically involved."

There is also the possibility of earning a scholarship because of her rowing success.

One thing is certain, rowing will be in her future for a long while. She has already come a long way in a very short period of time.