For 2006 Valley High School graduate Mandy Merritt, she combined these changes with the learning of an entirely new sport.
Merritt, now in her third year at Ohio State, sits in the stroke seat of the rowing team's second varsity four, which won the regional title May 17 at the Central/South Region Sprints in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
The boat crossed the finish line of the 2000 meter race in 6:59.7.
This came two weeks after Merritt's team finished fourth at the Big Ten Championships.
"My boat was kind of disappointed at Big Tens because we worked so hard and came up less than a second short of third place," Merritt said. "It was disheartening. We didn't do anything too bad but what we had wasn't enough to push us through. But the week or so following Big Tens and going to regionals...we wanted it bad."
Andy Teitelbaum, who has been coaching the Ohio State rowing team since 1996, was certainly impressed by the regional performance.
The team defeated a pair of schools it lost to at the Big Ten Championships with a time more than eight-seconds quicker than its previous mark.
"It was an outstanding performance," Teitelbaum said. "I think...they were disappointed with their performance at the Big Tens. It wasn't a surprise. To pass the teams they lost to plus Virginia and Clemson... it was phenomenal!”
It's been a long road for Merritt, who never considered rowing an option until early in her time at Ohio State.
In high school, Merritt excelled in volleyball, basketball and softball, but elected to go to Ohio State for academics instead of athletics. Early in her freshman year, however, she was offered an opportunity to row, and a chance to get back into competiton.
"When I got to college, I thought I'd focus on studies," Merritt said. "But I was approached at the Oval, where clubs recruit new members, and a rower told me I looked like an athlete and asked me if I wanted to do rowing. I thought about it for a week or two and decided to see how it went. I missed sports and the competition. After the first practice, I was hooked."
There were adjustments needed because rowing was unlike any of the land-based sports Merritt was accustomed to.
"My body wasn't prepared," Merritt said. "Rowing wears your out. Your body just hits this threshold where you don't think you can't go on any more. You're moving back and forth and you really have to work to get oxygen and breathe. It's really a lower body sport. You use a lot of leg. When you reach the last 500 meters of the race it's all heart because your body's done."
Merritt spent her first year as a member of the first novice eight, learning the art of rowing and competing on a limited schedule.
"Especially when you're a novice, you're just learning the motions," she said. You need to learn to (row) with the people in front of you and behind you to keep the boat set. If the boat's not set, it wobbles and it makes it tougher to get it going forward."
Around 100 women typically try for the team each year, with less than a fourth of them making it through.
"We have our novice program for people who have never rowed before," Teitelbaum said. "We try to encourage as many female athletes as possible to give it a shot. A lot of them weed themselves out. It takes a lot to be a varsity athlete.
"Mandy's got some assets in her strength," Teitelbaum added. "She's not the prototypical rower in terms of height and strengths. But she makes up for it with her attitude and enthusiasm."
Merritt's positive attitude came into play when she was a sophomore and was forced to sit out the season.
"I came back my sophomore year, was sick and couldn't compete," Merritt said. "I had to work really hard because I'm really new to the sport. But I worked really hard in the fall and the winter to get into shape."
The hard work paid off in the spring when Merritt earned a spot on the second varsity four in the stroke seat. With her back turned to the finish line, Merritt is the first rower on the team who crosses the line after the coxswain (who steers the boat) each race.
"It's a big honor for me to be in that boat amongst seasoned rowers and rowers from other countries who compete on their national teams," Merritt said.
Because of her approach to the sport, Merritt was honored at this year's Big Ten meet when she received the sportsmanship award.
"Every Big 10 team nominates a recipient for that award," Teitelbaum said. "When it comes to attitude and appreciation for what we do day in and day out and respect for her teammates and her opponents, she really sets the standard on our squad. She's great. She's a tremendous asset in terms of her enthusiasm and appreciation of the opportunity to be an Ohio Buckeye and be a part of the team."
Though very happy with the opportunity to compete as a Buckeye, Merritt still has her sights set on bigger things like a spot on the first varsity four or one of the two varsity eights, which would compete in the national championships with strong regional showings.
"I wouldn't say I'm complacent being in the four," Merritt said. "It's an honor to row at Ohio State. It's an honor to be in any of the boats. I want my skills to get better. If it means OSU getting a Big Ten, regional or national championship with me in the fours, That's what I'll do. Being a part of any of the boats is just awesome."
CHRIS DUNHAM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.