Simone Jacobs was a soccer, track and water polo standout growing up. As she began her sophomore year at Aragon High in San Mateo, she wanted to try something different.
What sport that would eventually be came as the result of a carpool.
Her mother, Michele, had mentioned rowing as a great opportunity before, but Jacobs hadn't explored it yet. After years of competing in the water as a water polo player, it was time to race on the water.
"A classmate of mine in high school was on the rowing team and it would work out well with carpooling so it made sense to try it out," Jacobs explained. "I had a great novice year experience in high school and really enjoyed rowing from the beginning."
All Jacobs has done since is earn a scholarship at Stanford and row in one of the most important seats in the Cardinal's top boat as the stroke of the varsity eight.
Jacobs and her Stanford teammates will compete for a national championship this Friday through Sunday as the Cardinal travels to Lake Natoma near Sacramento for the NCAA Division I Women's Rowing Championships.
As she prepares for her final collegiate rowing competition, Jacobs reflects back on her path to rowing at Stanford. Her high school coach pulled her and a couple other rowers aside and explained to them the talent they had. With hard work and dedication the future in this sport could take them many places, her coach explained.
"She always set really high expectations for me," Jacobs said. "I owe her a lot for making me achieve that level."
Jacobs competed for a spot in the national team selection camp and advanced through the trials, but fell just short of making the team. That experience left a lasting impression.
"I am a competitive person and wanted to compete in that environment," she said, looking back on that experience. "Rowing is what I want to do."
One of the top students in her class at Aragon, Jacobs was looking for a highly regarded institution where she could continue to grow as a student and have an opportunity to compete as a rower. She explored several Ivy League schools along with a visit to Stanford. One college visit to the East Coast made her decision an easy one.
"I visited a college on the East Coast and then took a visit to Stanford shortly after," Jacobs said. "From there, my decision was easy. Stanford offered everything I was looking for in a school. I knew a bunch of people on the team and we all got along really well. When I told my parents, they were so happy. They said they didn't want to tell you what to do, but we are so thrilled I made the decision to go to Stanford."
Looking back on the decision, Jacobs couldn't be happier.
"Stanford offers such a great blend of fresh and positive energy around the campus," Jacobs said. "There is a high level of excellence among the student body here, but everyone is so humble about their accomplishments. There isn't a sense of competition among classmates, people are open and respectful to what others are working to achieve."
A science, technology and society major with a concentration on innovation, technology and organizations, Jacobs has a keen interest in the social impact new technologies can have.
"I have taken a way creative thinking and problem solving that is very interdisciplinary," the senior explained. "It is an interesting way to approach your education. It has allowed me to explore a lot of different fields. I have gotten to do a broad taste test of what Stanford has to offer."
She is currently in the middle of a co-term in communications focusing in media studies, taking classes towards her graduate degree.
"At 5-9, Simone is a little on the short side when it comes to Division I women's rowing, but she is one of the most disciplined people I have ever coached, both as a student and as an athlete," Stanford head women's rowing coach Yasmin Farooq said. "She is an A student and has one of the highest grade-point averages in our program. Simone is proof that you can excel in academics and athletics at the highest level at Stanford."
Through her studies at Stanford, Jacobs took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad the summer after her sophomore year. She spent two months in Madagascar, studying health care systems in the country and how western medicine is being integrated into the island nation.
"The entire experience was outstanding," Jacobs said. "I am comfortable putting myself in new places with different cultures. It was great to explore the culture, learn [the native language Malagasy and meet new people."
Jacobs' rowing career at Stanford began in the second varsity eight. She placed second in the Petite Final at the NCAA Championships her freshman season.
After mononucleosis and a rib injury limited her competition on the water as a sophomore, Jacobs made the varsity eight lineup as a junior.
"After not training at all during my two months in Madagascar, I followed a thorough training plan when I got back to campus as I prepared for my junior season," Jacobs said. "It paid off. I got to be in a boat that was really great, wonderful teammates and we got to accomplish a lot."
The Cardinal placed sixth as a team at the NCAA Championships and the varsity eight finished fifth in the 2015 Grand Final.
"Simone has come a long way since her sophomore year," Farooq explained. "I think she took a hard look at that season and decided that she wanted more from the sport. She also realized she had more to give, and she genuinely wanted to win.ÃƒÂƒÃ‚ÂƒÃƒÂ‚Ã‚ÂƒÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â‚ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚ÂƒÃƒÂƒÃ‚ÂƒÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â‚ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â‚ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â‚ÃƒÂƒÃ‚ÂƒÃƒÂ‚Ã‚ÂƒÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â‚ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â‚ÃƒÂƒÃ‚ÂƒÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â‚ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â‚ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â To have the success she wanted,ÃƒÂƒÃ‚ÂƒÃƒÂ‚Ã‚ÂƒÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â‚ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚ÂƒÃƒÂƒÃ‚ÂƒÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â‚ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â‚ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â‚ÃƒÂƒÃ‚ÂƒÃƒÂ‚Ã‚ÂƒÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â‚ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â‚ÃƒÂƒÃ‚ÂƒÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â‚ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â‚ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â she knew she would have to create a better way to prepare, and manage her health and school. Her success now is a direct result of two years of very disciplined preparation, both mentally and physically."
Jacobs is now the stroke and the leader of the varsity eight.
"Last summer, she held down a full-time job and still managed to find a way to work out every day, Farooq said. "When she got back to school she was setting the bar in every workout: on the water, on the erg, and in the weight room. She really loves to win -- in all of those areas."
"I have learned so much in year's past and have the knowledge how best to approach everything," Jacobs said. "I am so appreciative to Yaz and the coaching staff and my teammates for the great support throughout my career."
Stanford is ranked sixth overall as a team and is the No. 2 seed in the varsity eight event at this weekend's NCAA Championships. The Cardinal already owns a victory over top-ranked California at the Big Row earlier this year. Stanford and Cal dueled it out again in the Pac-12 Championships on the Lake Natoma course two weeks ago with the Golden Bears taking the Gold by less than a second.