June 24, 2010
BERKELEY - Jill Costello, a California coxswain on the Golden Bear women's crew, passed away on Thursday, ending her year-long battle against lung cancer. Last month, Costello was named the Pac-10 Athlete of the Year and she graduated with a degree in political economy after making the Pac-10 All-Academic second team.
"Jill was a wonderful person in every way, and we were blessed to have had her in our lives," head coach Dave O'Neill said. "Back when Jill was diagnosed, she wrote, 'Life is all about how we handle the challenges we are given.' Jill faced this challenge with absolute courage, grace and dignity, and was an inspiration for so many people, especially our team. As much as everyone tried to lend a hand, Jill was the one inspiring all of us. The core of `Team Jill' was her parents, Mary and Jim, and aunt, Kathy. Our hearts go out to them."
A native of San Francisco, Costello was diagnosed on June 6, 2009, just after Cal's return from the NCAA Rowing Championships. Despite battling the illness throughout the 2010 season, she continued to train and compete with the Bears. An inspiration to her teammates for her resolve in battling the disease, Costello coxed the varsity 8+ for the first time at the 2010 Pac-10 Championships. Costello and the Bears just edged Stanford to the finish line in that race, thus clinching the Pac-10 team title for Cal by half of a point over the Cardinal.
Her teammates weren't the only Cal athletes to be motivated by Costello's fight and determination. When the Cal men's crew competed at the IRA Regatta earlier this month, they wore ribbons in honor of Costello. Cal head coach Mike Teti said during the weekend of the regatta that as hard as the team was racing, they wanted Costello to know that they were still thinking about her.
Cal also honored Costello during the season, including during the Bears sweep of Stanford in the annual Big Row. The Cal women raced that day as "Team Jill." The Bears' uniforms and oars were navy blue and aquamarine green, Costello's favorite color. Not only did the Cal men's team participate, but both Stanford crews did, as well. Costello wasn't present at the Big Row to witness it, as she was on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. On her "CaringBridge" blog, Costello said the trip was a healing, powerful and unforgettable experience and truly advanced her spiritual development.
Costello returned to Berkeley on May 4, rejoining her team in preparation for the Pac-10 Championships.
On May 6, Costello was a guest speaker at the annual Academic Honors Luncheon held on campus. Costello, who received a standing ovation when she approached the podium, won the Joseph McDonnell Kavanagh Award as Cal's most inspirational student-athlete.
The funeral service for Costello will be Wednesday, June 30, at 1:30pm at St. Ignatius Church on the campus of USF. To view the webcast viewing of the service, please click here.
More on Jill:
San Francisco Chronicle Feature
Cal Sports Quarterly Feature
"Just Like Jill" Lung Cancer Research Campaign
KPIX TV Feature
Cancer takes Jill Costello
Jill Costello Photo Gallery