Samantha Claborn has known for a while that she would be adventuring on a big trip to kick off her 2020 season of rowing.
The Windermere High senior and Orlando Area Rowing Society member had signed up for the World Rowing Indoor Championship — which runs Feb. 7 and 8, 2020 — at the Coubertin Stadium in Paris, France, but hadn’t discussed it aloud often.
The reason? She wanted to stay humble and just keep her nose to the grindstone.
“A couple of them know, and my coaches definitely know,” Claborn said. “My coaches had said something at the beginning of the year, but I think everyone pretty much forgot about it. But I like to keep it low key, because not everybody gets the opportunity to go over there, so I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging or anything.”
Like many outdoor sports, rowing can be hampered by bad weather. However, in those cases, rowers have another option available to them — erging.
When the waves whitecap and winds pick up, rowers such as Claborn can go indoors and jump on the ergometer — a rowing machine — to get in some practice time.
While time on the ergometer is normally done as a way to better oneself for outdoor rowing, this time Claborn will be using her time on the machine to prepare to take on some of the finest rowers in the world.
“So it’s very terrifying for me, because it’s obviously a very different atmosphere than the United States,” Claborn said. “The girls out there are fast in Europe, but I’m just going to try and go out there and not just have fun but (also) enjoy the experience and go as hard as I can.”
Being on a machine is obviously different than being out on the water, but that doesn’t make it any easier, Claborn said. Rowers still have to deal with the same struggles, and it can be exhausting in a number of ways.
“The hardest part about rowing is that, while it is physically demanding, it is (also) one of the most mentally demanding sports that you will find,” Claborn said. “When you’re erging, you’re not only pushing yourself physically, (but) you have to think about it mentally.”
“The girls out there are fast in Europe, but I’m just going to try and go out there and not just have fun but (also) enjoy the experience and go as hard as I can.”
— Samantha Claborn
Claborn has been pushing by those barriers since she first started rowing in the seventh grade. She followed in the footsteps of her sister — who also rowed at OARS. Like most kids, she went through a slew of different sports, but it was rowing that stuck.
Six years later, she is getting ready to take on a talented field in an international tournament.
“Last year, my mom was watching the international Erg Sprints … last year it was in California,” Claborn said. “My mom was like, ‘Oh, how cool would it be if we went to the next one? Let’s see where it is, and maybe it’ll be close.’ We saw it was in Paris, and my mom was like, ‘Wow, maybe we can convince your dad.’”
Luckily for Claborn, her dad agreed, and since then, she has been preparing for the event — all while juggling her training schedule at OARS.
And if starting her 2020 with a trip to Paris wasn’t big enough, Claborn recently announced that she had committed to row at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
“When I went to Gonzaga, it was just a gut feeling when I left,” Claborn said. “I went back out West for another official (visit) — this time my dad had come with me — and all I could think was, ‘Wow, I want to show my dad Gonzaga’s campus,’ and that kind of clued me in … that maybe that’s the place for me.”
The commitment to Gonzaga — and the championship in Paris — are just the latest of the many achievements in Claborn’s life, and they’re byproducts of her dedication to the sport of rowing.
But the driving force behind the tireless work ethic isn’t defined by the physical — it’s defined by passion and community, Claborn said.
“My team is literally my family,” Claborn said. “You see them six days a week, so they become very close with you — they know everything about you and you know everything about them.”