Rowing Loses One of Its Own

Adventures at C World

Some stories, you just know they’re going to turn out all right.

They’re sad, their outlook is terrible, but you know they’ll get better.

There’s got to be a surprise happy ending, you think.

Because I hadn’t heard Jill Costello’s story before, I had thought I was listening to that kind of tale Saturday morning at crew practice.

Costello seemed like she had everything going for her. A coxswain for one of the top crew programs in the country, she led her California Golden Bears boat to a fourth-place finish at NCAAs three years in a row—twice in the varsity four and once in the first varsity eight.

So when I heard about the part where she got stage IV lung cancer, I figured she would have to recover, or that she must have already recovered.

I was wrong.

At only 21 years of age, Costello went to the hospital last year with what she thought was a stomachache—only to be diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

She had never smoked a day in her life.

But impending death wasn’t going to stop Costello from living—or competing.

A look at Costello’s Twitter account reveals the following entry from May 25 of this year: “Practice at 10a, CT scans at 2p. Fingers crossed for good news please!!!”

The good news never came.

Fully aware that her days were running out, the coxswain led her crew to a fourth-place finish, pushing Cal to a second-place team finish at the 2010 NCAAs.

A few weeks later at the IRAs, Costello’s inspiration helped the Golden Bears’ men’s team to edge out Washington, the defending national champions, by 0.263 seconds to win the varsity eight national title.

Then on June 24, less than a month after placing fourth at NCAAs, Jill Costello passed away.