Cal women’s crew to join “The Great Lung Run” on Golden Gate Bridge to honor former teammate

The UC Berkeley women’s rowing team and head coach Dave O’Neill will run across the Golden Gate Bridge tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 1) in honor of their late teammate, Jill Costello, and to support her best friend, who will be on the last few miles of a cross-country run to raise research funds for lung cancer. Costello, a non-smoker and student-athlete, died at age 22 of lung cancer shortly after graduating from UC Berkeley.

(UC Berkeley video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Christian Collins).

Kelcey Harrison, a Harvard University graduate, left her job in New York City to increase awareness of her friend’s disease and has raised some $150,000 since she started “The Great Lung Run” in Times Square on July 30. She met and became friends with Costello in San Francisco when they attended St. Ignatius College Preparatory school.

As many as 70 members of the rowing team plan to meet up with Harrison on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge at 2:30 p.m. and will finish the run at about 3:30 p.m. on Crissy Field, where a celebration will take place. The San Francisco Fire Department and others will accompany Harrison and her supporters as they make their way across the bridge.

At UC Berkeley, Costello was a beloved and inspirational coxswain for Cal women’s varsity crew.  In 2009, while an undergraduate, she was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, the most advanced form of the disease. She graduated from UC Berkeley in May 2010 wearing the medal she’d just received as the Pac-10 women’s rowing athlete of the year and went on to take part on May 30 in her team’s NCAA Division 1 championships. She died less than a month later.

In October 2011, Costello became the first student-athlete to receive a posthumous Inspiration Award from the NCAA. The award is given to a current coach or administrator, or to a current or former varsity student-athlete, “who, when confronted with a life-altering situation, used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome the event and now serves as a role model to give hope and inspiration to others.”

During her last semester at UC Berkeley, Costello teamed up with the Bonnie Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, helping to raise $50,000 for lung cancer research and rallying 1,000 people for the initial Jog for Jill on Feb. 7, 2010. Since then, Jog for Jill fundraisers and other events are being held every year across the country, and a jog is co-hosted on campus each spring.

Costello’s spirit lives on, despite the fact that only about a dozen seniors on the rowing team knew her personally, as freshmen. “Jill is very much a part of team culture now and forever,” said Coach O’Neill.

The team’s big race with Stanford University has been renamed “The Jill Row,” following Costello’s absence from the race her last semester at UC Berkeley, when she took a trip to Lourdes, France. The rowers continue to wear unforms for that race that are seafoam green — Costello’s favorite color — and Stanford’s rowers wear a little green as well in her honor. The backs of the team’s regular racing uniforms feature a seafoam ribbon by the bear mascot.  And the name of the varsity eight boat has become “Beat Lung Cancer.”