Nov. 24, 2010
Liz Robb’s final days of high school dealt her a devastating blow. Two months before she began rowing at Clemson, her brother, Sam, passed away after a fight against cancer.
Robb had been a member of the rowing team for Saint Andrew Rowing Club in Atlanta, GA since the eighth grade and had an outstanding career. She was the only student from her graduating class to sign with a Division I school in any sport. She had come a long way.
However, she was distraught in light of her brother’s passing and at first did not want to come to Clemson. Robb and her brother were very close. He had been attending a junior college and planned to transfer to Clemson with her. She did not want to move to Clemson without her brother and decided to withdraw her acceptance.
Thankfully, Robb’s high school rowing coach had different plans for the grieving student. He called Clemson and informed the athletic department of what had happened. He told the coaches that Robb would still be attending in the fall. The head rowing coach at the time, Richard Ruggieri, called her family to offer condolences.
“The whole support staff was awesome,” said Robb. “That’s when I realized how amazing Clemson was. The support was unbelievable. Everyone in the athletic department wanted to help me out, which was exactly what I needed.”
Robb used the experience of that summer as motivation to work even harder on the Clemson rowing team. She had an outstanding freshman season, racing with the Varsity 8+ at Head of the Hooch, where the team finished third. She was named to the All-ACC team and was selected as the ACC’s Freshman-of-the-Year, the first Clemson rower in history to receive that honor.
“It was an adrenaline rush for an entire year,” recalled Robb.
One of her best memories from the season was qualifying for grand finals at the South-Central races, which automatically qualified the team to go to the NCAA Championships. It was the first time in school history that a rowing team had made it to the event, and it was an experience the freshman would not forget.
Robb continued to work hard through her sophomore and junior seasons, helping the team to some of its highest accomplishments in Clemson rowing history, including winning the 2009 ACC Championship. In the final race of the event, Clemson’s Varsity 8+ finished 9.5 seconds ahead of Virginia. It was the first time Virginia did not win the Varsity 8+ race at the ACC Championships.
“Winning the ACC Championship was the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” exclaimed Robb. “We were behind Virginia for most of the race. We knew we had to finish first to win the ACC. There was so much adrenaline.”
A year later after the 2010 ACC Championships, Robb discovered that she had three large stress fractures in her ribs, which kept her from racing for the rest of the year.
“I had to watch at South-Central,” said Robb. “I have been racing at that venue since eighth grade, so that was a shot to the heart.”
Since that race, Robb has been in rehab therapy. She has been working on strength and conditioning training all summer and for most of the fall season and plans to return to racing this spring.
“I’m good to go,” insisted Robb. “I am ready to finish my senior year strong. Even if it kills me, I am going to row. I am finishing strong, no matter what.”
That attitude is what could push the Clemson rowing team further than they have ever been before. The team’s goal for the season is to finish with a top-10 ranking. If the team accomplishes this goal, it will have achieved the highest ranking of any rowing team in school history.
“We are trying to exceed everyone’s expectations,” said Robb.
In May of 2011, Robb will graduate with a degree in sociology. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school and complete an internship to help in her future job search. Eventually, she hopes to earn a job as a child life specialist, working with children with pediatric cancer.
“It’s a blend of a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a psychologist, and a friend. That is my ultimate goal.”
Robb has applied to work at the Greenville (SC) children’s hospital in the near future. She has been inspired by her parents, who work with Open Arms once a month to take food to a hospital in Atlanta, GA, where her brother was treated. The entire family visits the hospital every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and on the anniversary of her brother’s passing in order to volunteer.
The family also has a fund that raises money annually to support a local Research Fellow who is working to find a cure for childhood cancer. They have raised approximately $200,000 in the past three years for the fund. Robb is hoping to take over the fundraising efforts when she graduates from college.
Motivation has been a key factor in everything that Robb has accomplished in her rowing career at Clemson, and it will continue to help her do great things in the future. Her generous heart and compassion for others will no doubt lead her to a successful career as a life specialist.
To those children whom she helps, Robb will be an irreplaceable companion, much as she has been an irreplaceable asset to the Clemson rowing team.
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