Sisters pleased with success

Krystina and Sam Sarff are headed to the NCAA Division I rowing championships with UCF.

By MIKE CAMUNAS Times Correspondent
Published May 23, 2007

The Sarff sisters' specialty used to be swimming and volleyball.

Not any more.

Krystina and Sam Sarff, while at Bloomingdale and Durant, respectively, never did anything near what they're now doing at Central Florida.

They're headed to the Division I National Championships. In rowing.

"I never did any type of rowing until I got to (the University of) Florida, " Krystina, 22, said.

"There's really no comparison between rowing and volleyball, " Sam, 19, added. "There's just too much jumping and diving in volleyball."

The sisters had never seen, let alone been in, a regatta. Krystina, after graduating in 2003, started college at Florida. When Sam was looking for colleges at the end of her senior year in 2006, she wanted a school willing to give her a volleyball scholarship.

But everything changed when, on a lark, Krystina joined Florida' club rowing team her freshman year and competed in the Southern Sprints Indoor Rowing Championships.

"I ended up pulling a really fast time, " Krystina said. "My big focus there was to just beat the person from FSU, who I knew was really good. I used the rivalry thing just to motivate myself, and then I ended up winning the whole thing.

"So my (club) coach (at Florida) said to me, 'You can get a scholarship to row at a school. ... So I started visiting schools."

Krystina visited Miami and Central Florida, and eventually picked the Golden Knights. The team started doing well, and when Krystina found out that Sam was having a hard time finding the right college, she decided to make her pitch.

"Krystina would casually bring (up going to UCF to row), " Sam said. "She was always like, 'You could come, and we'd have a really good team.' But I always shook it off like, 'Yeah, right. Like I'm going to quit volleyball.' "

Krystina eventually got her way, and Sam joined her at UCF. As for this season, the team is ranked No. 9 and headed to its first national championships.

"We're really excited to be going (to the national championships) because, for us, getting there was such a huge accomplishment, " Krystina said. "It's a really big step for our program and our school because we really want to get UCF's name out there."

Those who know Krystina from her swimming days aren't surprised she made the transition to rowing so flawlessly.

"I'm not shocked by anything Krystina does, either athletically or academically, " said Thomas Beard, her swimming coach from Bloomingdale. "She's a hard worker, and I know she's very coachable because she's very bright and will always listen and pay attention. I know she made the transition (to rowing) very easily."

Krystina and Sam don't ride together. On the team, Krystina is in the varsity eight-person boat; Sam is in the second. But they still have each other's back.

"It's a big comfort level with having family on the team, " Krystina said. "Any time we need someone to talk to, we're always there for each other. But we push each other a lot, too, and then she comes to me for advice since I've been (playing) the sport a little longer."

And that advice - but mostly Krystina - will always keep Sam competitive.

"In rowing, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, so when she became the fastest (at UCF), I knew that I would have a lot to live up to, " Sam said. "But since she's here, it pushes me - knowing that I can be just as good as her."