Rachel Jeffers ’07 is one of those rare types you meet once in a while and almost never forget. With her warm voice, charming personality and striking resemblance to Cameron Diaz, you’d never know that she has not only rowed on the women’s national team and completed in a triathalon while you were complaining about your problem set due on Friday, but that she also earned the title of Boxing Champion of Eastern Colorado after taking down a thirty-something during a fight night at the local bar near Trail Ridge Road. She still has the belt to prove it.
People who know her are chomping at the bit to spread the word of her elite athletic prowess, but she will only tell you that she just does what she loves most.
Now at the helm of one of the most powerful collegiate women’s rowing teams in the nation, Jeffers, who began her rowing career years before Yale when she rowed for a club in her hometown of Los Gatos, Calif., has a chance to positively influence and give back to a program that she credits for her incredible athleticism.
Ab ovo, Jeffers showed herself to be a truly forceful athletic presence and promising rower. Her sister, who rowed for Yale before her, set the stage for her arrival on the team in her freshman year, just three autumns ago.
“She was a big deal coming into Yale and she’s an even bigger deal now,” Jeffers’ friend and women’s coxswain Emily Cleveland ’07 said.
After being named captain of Yale’s team last spring, Jeffers received more high honors when she was selected to row on the women’s national team over the summer. In July, rowing in the seventh seat on the United States eight, Jeffers shared in the silver-medal win that finished less than one second behind Romania at the 2006 FISA World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland.
After a brief jaunt to Europe, Jeffers continued to train with the national team at Princeton, N.J., where she was able to win another spot in the U.S. Four that took home the bronze in the World Championship competition in Eton, England.
“The whole summer was an awesome, once-in-a-lifetime experience for me,” she said. “To be around such passionate athletes was inspiring and definitely rubbed off.”
Aside from being captain, Jeffers will row stroke seat for the Varsity Eight, a position that she has trained herself to fill without having done so in past seasons.
“She is always working to improve herself and has really grown into her position as stroke and captain for the team,” Cleveland said. “She’s developed the ability to successfully stroke and is always getting better.”
Most of the team said the most effective and essential aspect that Jeffers brings to the team dynamic is her ability to lead by example.
“She has a distinctive rowing style and most of the younger rowers look up to her as an example,” Cleveland said.
Not only do fellow rowers look up to Jeffers’ athleticism and strong erg scores, but her gentle personality and ability to balance the spontaneous fun while maintaining focus on the water gives her a personal accessibility that makes the entire team environment more comfortable, friend and rower Jamie Redman ’08 said.
At the same time, she also knows when to be serious and has high expectations for the team, friend and coxswain Erin Haber ’08 said.
“Her positive feedback and patience make the hard work more constructive and enjoyable … she never loses that sense of fun,” Redman said. “And on the Halloween Row, she’s always got a great costume.”
You’d think that a person with Jeffers’ raw talent and learned skill would have to dedicate their entire future to rowing for rowing’s sake, but the beauty of Rachel Jeffers’ perspective is that she has more in store for herself.
“There’s more to life than rowing,” she said. “And while I’ve gained so much from being on a team and rowing throughout my life, it’s not necessarily the only thing I want to ever do.”
Without any concrete plans, Jeffers, an obviously well-rounded History major, is considering just about everything. Among many things, she said she’d like to teach, travel, live abroad, work in architecture or perhaps urban planning, anywhere where people like what they’re doing and she’ll be able to work with others.
For right now, Rachel’s simply living in the moment. Her positive outlook on rowing for the Ivy League, the promising season ahead, the promising year, her friends, her classes and living at Yale for the last year give her the enviable perspective that adds to the magic and energy that has filled every person she’s touched.
Rachel Jeffers is a phenomenal athlete, a friend to many and a model Yalie. We’ll see more great things from her. Who knows what? Boxing Champion of the Ivy League? The East Coast? The world? Anything’s possible.