LAKEWOOD RANCH — Christina Warren has had her sights set on playing a Division I sport for as long as she can remember.
The Cardinal Mooney High senior envisioned playing collegiate tennis — the sport she had been playing competitively since she was 9 years old.
But that vision changed almost two years ago when the then sophomore, who was one of the Top 50 junior tennis players in the state, decided to drop her tennis racket once and for all.
“I just really didn’t like tennis,” Warren says. “I got burnt out. I really wanted to play a Division I sport, but I didn’t think I could do (tennis) for another six years.”
At that point, Warren’s dreams of playing collegiate athletics seemed to all but disappear.
Shortly after tossing her tennis racket aside, Warren’s mom, Julie, approached her about joining the Sarasota Crew.
Warren had no desire do participate in crew — a sport she knew next to nothing about.
She eventually gave in and attended her first crew practice with her younger sister, Caroline, at the end of her sophomore year. Warren wasn’t quite sure what to expect at first; but after spending the next week working extensively with the coaches, she discovered she had a knack for the sport.
“It was kind of strange,” Warren says. “It didn’t seem that difficult. It wasn’t really much of a workout. It ended up being really fun, though. It’s cool to go fast and see everyone working together.
“From that point on I never picked up a racket,” Warren says.
Warren rowed in the Crew’s third best boat in her first three regattas before spending all summer training. Last fall, Warren made the Crew’s top Varsity 8 lightweight boat comprising girls 130 pounds and lighter.
As a junior, Warren and her teammates won state and regional titles — a first for the girls — and advanced to nationals.
“I love my team,” says Warren, who trains for four hours a day six days a week. “We’re all really close within the boats. We’re all best friends. I probably spend more time with the girls in my boat than I do (at home).
“They become like your sisters,” Warren says. “It’s very different from tennis. I’m fortunate that I have that now.”
Over the summer, Warren was one of three girls from the Crew and 32 girls nationwide chosen to participate in the U.S. World Junior National Team Selection Camp, in Connecticut.
“I was super excited,” Warren says. “It was an honor to be able to go. It’s really prestigious and to be able to go was a cool experience.”
It was at that point that Warren reverted her attention back to playing a Division I sport. Warren initially dreamed of attending the University of Notre Dame; but as other opportunities with crew began to open up Warren began expanding her options.
Stanford and Princeton, among other schools, recruited Warren, but in the end Princeton proved to be the right fit.
“Princeton appealed to me more,” Warren says. “I liked the coaches better and felt like I made the right choice.
“I’m just looking forward to racing,” Warren says. “There are only eight schools that have girls lightweight rowing, so it’s going to be super competitive.”
Now, as a senior, Warren is focused on helping lead the Crew to back-to-back state and regional championships with the hopes of medaling at nationals this summer.
In addition, Warren would like to improve her erg score, which is currently 7 minutes, 23 seconds for a 2K — the second fastest erg time in the nation for her grade level.
“Tennis helped me a lot,” Warren says. “It’s very different from crew, athletically, because you’re using totally different muscles. The thing that tennis helped me with the most is the mental aspect.
“Crew is really mentally tough,” Warren says. “You have to keep going and always be able to improve.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].