On the first day of summer vacation, Sammie Schalk went to work.
The incoming Westlake High senior trained Saturday morning in the Channel Islands marina with rowing coach Jake Coert.
There was no time to relax in the sun.
Schalk, who plays basketball and softball for the Warriors, is determined to earn a college rowing scholarship, and the sweat she puts into the sport this summer will go a long way toward achieving that goal.
“This summer, I’m going to train every day to get in shape,” Schalk said.
Get in shape? If she was in any better shape, she’d be gracing a Wheaties cereal box.
The Warrior is one of the most versatile athletes at the school. A 5-foot-11 center on the basketball court, Schalk was among team leaders in points, rebounds and blocks. She pitches and patrols first base for the softball squad; she sported a 2-1 record with one save in nine pitching appearances, and she collected 16 hits with nine RBI and four runs at the plate.
She played volleyball at Colina Middle School and grew up playing WAGS softball and CYBA basketball.
The 17-year-old has been rowing for less than a year, but she’s right at home in a scull, a single-person boat. She’s been training with Coert for three weeks, and he’s already seeing improvements.
“Give Sammie credit, she’s really pushing hard and focusing really hard,” Coert said. “She’s definitely a perfectionist when it comes to getting things right. The changes she’s made are significant. It’s awesome because she’s just now scratching the surface of her potential.”
Since softball ended earlier this spring, Schalk trains on the water three days a week. She simulates rowing on an erg machine at home.
There’s downtime in softball and basketball. There’s no coasting in rowing.
“You’re moving the entire time,” Schalk said. “It’s not easy, but it’s something I took to really quickly. I definitely love it.”
Westlake teammates appreciate sharing the huddle with Schalk.
“She’s always helping everyone on the team,” said Abby Tran, an incoming junior guard for the basketball squad. “She’s also a well-rounded player. . . . I’m definitely excited to see Sammie in her senior year, and for her to teach me more about everything.
“Sammie is a really good person. Deep down in her heart, she cares for everybody.”
Tran has played varsity basketball the past two seasons with her older sister Alexis, a recent Westlake grad bound for UC Santa Cruz. Alexis Tran hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in the Warriors’ 47-45 win against Agoura in February, one of Schalk’s favorite hardwood memories.
Maddie Charles, a Westlake softball catcher and recent grad, spoke highly of Schalk.
“Sammie’s always going to try her hardest,” said Charles, who will play Ivy League softball for Brown University. “I love Sammie. She’s one of my best friends. She’s really sweet, a little shy, but pretty funny.”
Charles, who had a 4.0 gradepoint average at Westlake, will study neuroscience at Brown.
Schalk is also an all-star in the classroom.
The Warrior notched a 4.5 GPA this school year. She enjoys Advanced Placement environmental science so much that she wants to study that in college. Part of the class requirements included clearing Malibu Creek of an invasive species of crayfish. She now volunteers on her own to clean the creek through the Mountains Restoration Trust.
“Environmental issues are going unnoticed,” she said. “I think it’s real urgent, and people should focus on it more.”
Schalk comes from an athletic family with deep roots in Chicago.
Her paternal grandfather, Art Schalk, played basketball at Loyola University Chicago. He was the school’s third-leading career scorer at the time of his graduation in the 1950s, and he earned induction into the Basketball Museum of Illinois hall of fame.
Her maternal grandfather, Tom Holsen, was a renowned basketball player and coach. Holsen also taught Hillary Clinton how to drive, Sammie Schalk said.
Both grandparents served in the U.S. military.
Her uncle Stan Holsen played football at Northwestern.
The daughter of Susan and Dan, Sammie Schalk has two sisters: Sydney, who played clarinet in the Westlake marching band, attends UC Davis and wants to join the Peace Corps; Sophia, an incoming Westlake sophomore, is on the stunt cheer and spirit cheer teams for the Warriors.
Schalk will continue training hard with Coert, a 23-year-old Fillmore resident who rowed for the California Golden Bears.
The Warrior will build a strong cardio foundation this summer while refining her fundamentals. Speed training will come later.
It’s only going to get harder.
“I was a multisport athlete before
I started rowing,” Coert said. “I’d go as far as calling rowing the hardest sport in the world. It’s a sport that requires both technique and fitness. You have to have both to do really well—and you do an insane amount of training.”
Schalk wants to prove herself in her new sport.
“I’m proud people view me as an athlete,” she said. “Hopefully I can commit to rowing in college. It’s something that will be exciting. This is a very important summer. I need to train a lot. This is what I want to do in college.”
Email sports editor Eliav Appelbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Warrior in a nutshell
Sammie Schalk, 17, is a multisport athlete at Westlake High. The incoming senior plays basketball and softball for the Warriors, and she picked up rowing within the past year. The honors student is training hard this summer to earn a college scholarship for rowing.
• Team: Charlotte Hornets
• Athlete: Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky
• Band: Florida Georgia Line
• TV show: “Psych”
• Movie: “My All-American”
• Dream destination: Nashville
• Class: Environmental science
DID YOU KNOW?
• Schalk’s grandfather, Tom Holsen, was Hillary Clinton’s high school driving instructor.