The Next Chapter

Hi, I'm Sarah. And I thought on my last day working at USC it was about time I introduce myself to you. Better late than never, right?

For nearly four years you've known me without actually knowing me. My words have come to life on your screens, my tweets and photos capturing moments and stories you share with your friends without ever knowing who pressed send. I've loved that. I've loved being invited into your daily internet routine, your fall football Saturdays, your understanding and appreciation of all things USC. I've loved holding the pen that's helped to bring so many great stories to life.

I started writing for the RipsIt blog as a sophomore at USC. But my first contribution came about a year before that when I helped document the USC football team's trip to Haiti in 2012. That trip changed everything for me, instilling a passion inside me to tell important stories in which the platform of athletics was leveraged to empower, instruct and unite people. I was 19 then, and in the four years since I've had the opportunity to witness some incredible moments and tell some remarkable stories, while also growing up a ton along the way.

I've interviewed and worked with Olympic medalists, future Olympic medalists, pro bowlers and national champions. Sat front row for the announcement of three new head football coaches and hit send on more than a few news breaking tweets.

I've traveled the conference, the country and the world for USC, having more fun on the sidelines of football and basketball games than anyone should be allowed to have at a paid job. And even still, those haven't come close to being the best parts of my most recent chapter.

Because no matter how high profile the subjects of some of my interviews may be, no matter how exclusive a sideline pass may look, the people, and the stories they carry with them, have always been the best part. USC has brought me some of my closest friends. Whether a 6-foot-9 offensive tackle with an equally enormous heart, a talented running back from Florida who beat the odds, or a 65-year-old pioneer who changed college football forever, the individuals who've allowed me to tell their stories have become enormous parts of mine.

It's been the greatest joy to work with coaches like Tee Martin, who truly care about each and every player who steps into their office; or athletes like Whitney Pitalo, who want to use an education received at USC to change the world. I've been blown away at the humility, maturity and comedy of student-athletes like Chimezie Metu, Oluwole Betiku and Devon Kennard, reminded time and time again that every single person has a unique and important story to tell.

I've called one of the most hallowed grounds in sports home, one of the most hilarious and dysfunctional groups of people family, and one of the most fun and incredible opportunities I'll ever have a job.

And now, after four years of magic as both a student and a staff member, I'm saying goodbye to Los Angeles and hello to a new adventure in New York City.

At the beginning of the year I committed to a single goal: to be a really, really good storyteller. Of others' stories as a writer, but also of my own.

That mission is the driving force in my life, and the primary reason that led me to hit submit when I noticed a fitting job opening at The Players' Tribune a month ago. I want to help athletes share their stories with the world, and I believe that I'll get a chance to do that every day in my new role. It's also an opportunity to begin a new chapter in my story, and I'm looking forward to what this one has in store.

I couldn't have asked for a better place to grow up than within the walls of Heritage Hall. And while I couldn't be more excited for this next adventure, I also couldn't be more thankful for my time at USC. Thank you for reading, for sharing and for caring about every word. Thanks for teaching a girl from Portland, Oregon, what the Trojan Family means.

An LA resident no more, but a Trojan for life, #FightOn and #BeatTheTide.

-Sarah Bergstrom

Trojan Two for the Maxwell

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Who is the best player in the country? The Maxwell Award has a few ideas, including USC sophomore RB Ronald Jones II and junior WR JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Click here for the complete watch list.

While the season will narrow down the list and eventually determine the winner, Jones and Smith-Schuster put themselves in this position by posting dynamic numbers last year.

Jones set USC's freshman rushing record, leading the team with 987 yards on 153 carries. The home run hitter averaged 6.45 yards per carry, ranking second among the Pac-12's top 10 runners.

As for Smith-Schuster, he led the conference in receiving, hauling in 89 receptions for 1,454 yards and 10 TDs. The courageous pass catcher put up monster numbers despite injuring his hand midway through the season.


#USC2RIO: Kami Craig

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The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Kami Craig

Country: United States of America

Event: Women's Water Polo

With one month to go until the opening ceremonies, excitement is building for the athletes, coaches and fans in anticipation of Rio 2016. Kami Craig, who pocketed Gold at London 2012 and silver at Beijing 2008, will be one of the few Olympians in control of her heart rate having been there and done that.

While Craig is a Team USA stalwart, the women's water polo veteran reacted to making her third Olympics like a first-timer.

"Immediately, I started crying," Craig described her reaction to the news of making the team. "It never gets old. You never know, there's always a bit of anxiety or nerves going into making a team or selection of a team. Even though it would be my third Olympics, going through the process in what you have to overcome - the injuries, the change of the roster, the playing time, the practices, the uniting of the team -- it's all challenging. Anything you put 100 percent commitment and heart into, it's pretty rewarding when you get to actually hear those words being said."


Focused on Football

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USC junior Adoree' Jackson, who is fresh off the U.S. Olympic Trials at which he finished 10th, is ready for a big season on the gridiron, which starts with the Bednarik Award naming him one of the best defensive players in the country.

Click here for the complete watch list.

Jackson is a two-sport, multi-position phenomenon, but he is expected to take the majority of his snaps this season at cornerback. In his USC career, Jackson has broken up 17 passes and made 84 tackles.


Impact Transfer

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Signinday_Basketball_Derryck2(1).jpgUSC men's basketball officially announced the signing of 5-star PG Derryck Thornton, the No. 1 transfer in the country. The former Duke guard, who started 20 games for the Blue Devils last season, will have to sit out the 2016-17 season and then have three years of eligibility remaining.

Click here for more.

"I'm truly happy to be home and part of a growing program," said Thornton, a Chatsworth native. "USC sent me my first letter, offered me my first scholarship and now I want to be the player to help lead USC to its first Final Four [in the modern era]. With a great coaching staff and team already in place, I know we can do it together."

Thornton, 19, played in 36 games for Duke, which ultimately made the Sweet 16, and he was the only freshman to make the 2015 2K Classic All-Tournament Team. In one of college basketball's greatest rivalries, Thornton clinched the win over North Carolina with a game-sealing block (video below)

He finished the season second on the team in assists (93) and fifth in scoring (255 total points). His assist total ranks 10th all-time on Duke's freshman list and his 1.58:1 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks tied for seventh all-time by a Blue Devils' freshman.

Thornton was a Top 15 national recruit coming out of Findlay Prep (Nev.) in 2015 as a junior. He reclassified to graduate early after leading his team to a 29-3 record and averaging 17.0 points, 6.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game.

#USC2RIO: Anna Wierzbowska

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The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Anna Wierzbowska

Country: Poland

Event: Women's Rowing

Anna Wierzbowska heads to Rio 2016 as one half of a sister act, rowing in the women's pairs with her sibling, Maria. The 2010 USC All-American was a Trojan captain and helped the Women of Troy win their second of back-to-back Jessop-Whittier Cup titles at the San Diego Crew Classic. She graduated from USC with a degree in international relations in May 2012.


First Day on the Job

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Lynn Swann's tenure as USC athletic director officially begins today. He is currently meeting with most of the head coaches as part of annual retreat to Terranea.

Changing of the Guard

Today marks the end of Pat Haden's tenure as athletic director at USC. On Friday, Lynn Swann will officially take over the position.

Haden's era began in August 2010, and over the six years since, USC won 12 national championships, more than any other school in that time period. The Trojans also collected 29 conference titles.

With all that new hardware, USC needed to renovate Heritage Hall, and that's exactly what Haden did. He also oversaw four other major projects: John McKay Center, Buntmann Family Tennis Center, Uytengsu Aquatics Center and Merle Norman Stadium. He will continue to serve on to guide the renovation of the Coliseum.

While competitive success and fundraising are part of Haden's legacy, he always put the most emphasis on the student-athletes. He prioritized their overall experience over everything. To that end, USC athletics has enjoyed its greatest academic years and semesters on record under Haden and made community service a priority, including 99.6% student-athlete involvement and more than 4,000 hours of outreach.


#USC2RIO: Lauren Fendrick

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The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Lauren Fendrick

Country: United States of America

Event: Women's Beach Volleyball

The United States will be sending two women's beach volleyball teams to Rio. Yesterday, we profiled April Ross, who will be playing with Kerri Walsh Jennings, and today, we meet Lauren Fendrick, who is one half of the other pair with Brooke Sweat. Fendrick is an alum of the USC Gould School of Law.

Fendrick actually splits the crosstown rivalry as a UCLA undergrad, playing indoor volleyball in college before turning pro on the beach. In Rio, she is excited to represent the team that unites us all.

"Competing with USA on my back is always an honor, but to do it at the Olympics on the biggest stage and in a city with such a rich beach volleyball tradition is truly a dream come true," Fendrick told the LA Times. "I feel honored and privileged to get to compete for my country."


Top 100 Trojan at No. 12

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On Wednesday, former USC Heisman-winning quarterback Carson Palmer became the third Trojan and fifth Arizona Cardinal to make the 2016 NFL Top 100, coming in at No. 12.

The 36-year-old compiled his best statistical season ever in 2015, setting career highs and Arizona single-season records in passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating. Somehow defying the consequences of age, the quarterback is seemingly getting better with every year, boasting a .833 winning percentage since 2014 - the best in the NFL over that span.