From Mission Bay to the NCAA

BVH Alum reaches her final season as an NCAA rower


Provided by Azja Czajkowski

Azja Czajkowski (first rower) and her Stanford Women’s Rowing team cool down after their semi final race at the NCAA d1 Women’s Rowing championships (2022.)

Isabella Garcia, Sports Editor

Bonita Vista High (BVH) 18’ Alum Azja Czajkowski, becomes a successful National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) rower, reaching five years at Leland Stanford Junior University (SU) and ranking number two in the country. Her rowing career began as a sophomore at BVH back in 2016 and is now coming to an end with 2023 being her final year at SU.

“My family are the ones who got me into rowing. They made me do a sport I didn’t want to do, but then I got really invested in it,” Czajkowski said. “They are really supportive and it feels good that my success in the sport means something to them.”

Czajkowski originally was on BVH’s swim and dive team, but decided to find another sport as she became “burned out”. Her parents encouraged her to take up rowing because they found competitive rowing after high school. Czajkowski’s mother rowed at Georgetown University, while her father in the U.S. Naval Academy.  

“Czajkowski’s intelligence and talents are hereditary. [Her] mom was an Advanced Placement (AP) English literature teacher and her dad was a navy seal, AP English language teacher and guitar instructor,” AP English literature and English 11 teacher Gabriel Garcia said. “The family came with a certain skill set that [was] inherited into Czajkowski’s DNA.”

Garcia was Czajkowski’s former teacher of two years and a colleague of her father’s. Since he knew her well, he wasn’t surprised by her ability to quickly and successfully take on rowing. He explains that having a higher maturity level, being well-rounded and down to earth made her successful following high school.

“I’m absolutely proud of her. I love to see her name when she gets recognized for being an exceptional rower and [I’m] not at all surprised by her excellence,” Garcia said. “You can tell every now and then, you get a student who is different and you can expect great things. Czajkowski was [one of them].”

“You can tell every now and then, you get a student who is different and you can expect great things.”

— AP English literature and English 11 teacher Gabriel Garcia

Like Garcia, Czajkowski’s high school rowing coach, San Diego Rowing Club (SDRC) head coach Patrick Kington also noticed her potential from when she first began rowing at SDRC in 2016 out of Mission Bay. Later on, Czajkowski became a varsity captain at SDRC.

“Her work ethic and mental toughness was off the charts. She had a fair number of successes while she was with [SDRC], but also had a fair number of disappointments and her resilience from that was really good,” Kington said.

As an athlete in high school, Czajkowski was forced to find a balance between academic and athletic life. At times, she would struggle balancing her AP and International Baccalaureate classes while practicing multiple hours almost daily. However, Czajkowski was encouraged to work harder physically, psychologically and academically. 

“If you made a list of all the traits you want athletes to have, she checks the most boxes of any high school aged athlete I’ve ever worked with,” Kington said. “I told people when she was in high school, ‘I think there’s a good chance Czajkowski is going to become an Olympian.’”

After rowing for only a year, SU began to scout Czajkowski as a junior in high school for a potential spot on their NCAA Division I team after graduating from BVH in 2018. Kington knew of her capabilities as a rower and found it “silly” they didn’t scout Czajkowski earlier. 

Stanford Women’s Rowing at the NCAA d1 Women’s Rowing Championships (2022.) Azja (second from left in the front) and her team mates hold up their 2nd place (national runner up) trophies.   Provided by Azja Czajkowski

“[SDRC] has rowing machines where we test physical capacity and she was always one of the top two in the country. When the Stanford coaches came down to look at her, they were really interested in Czajkowski,” Kington said. “My thinking was, ‘What are you waiting for?’ Because I knew she was going to be one of the best in the country.” 

Unlike Kington, Czajkowski didn’t necessarily see herself rowing professionally in college as she decided to major in Product Design. However, when offered the opportunity to, she took it. Czajkowski is currently taking her fifth and final year at SU, getting to continue rowing for one more season and double majoring in communications.’

“I avoid talking about long term [things] like college, goals or jobs. But, I [can] look back and clearly see all of the pieces being [put] in place,” Czajkowski said. “I wouldn’t say my rowing or academic trajectory was completely out of left field, but it’s exciting to be in a position where fun stuff will happen and come as a surprise.”

Over the years at SDRC and SU, Czajkowski has made a mass amount of accomplishments. A few of the most recent being 2022 Pac-12 Conference Athlete of the Year and 2022 Pac-12 All-Conference. Her SU team was also runner up at NCAA championships for the last two years. Reflecting on the start of her career, Czajkowski wishes to have had greater self-confidence.

“I would tell my younger self to chill out, but not to be afraid to pursue things that I was passionate about,” Czajkowski said. “Being able to tell people what matters to you and what your hopes are, even if you are not going to meet them, is really vulnerable. But I really wish I’d learned how to do [it] earlier.”