Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Hall of Fame
Remembering Harvard Athletics
Nineteen years ago, we were the fastest collegiate women’s 8+ in the country. Julie, Marvel, Courtney, Caryn, Anna, Heather, Caroline, Tasha and me.
Nineteen years ago, we lined up for an early-season race against Princeton knowing something the rest of the rowing world hadn’t learned yet: we were fast. Nineteen years ago, in that Princeton race, we unleashed for the first time what would become our signature race plan that season. We came off the start deliberate, confident, but a boat length behind—and then, like a freight train, we built momentum and kept building it, the whole way down the course, rumbling inexorably past them seat by seat to finish with open water.
Nineteen years ago, we met in hotel rooms on away-race eves to mentally rehearse the next day’s performance. Our magnificent coach, Liz O, would narrate it for us—the second 500, the third 500, kicking, swinging, sprinting, winning—and we’d feel rising in us a fierce, focused, joyful, adrenaline-charged buzz, because we knew that the beautiful thing Liz was describing was the exact thing we’d do in the morning. Not only that, we knew we’d do it full-heartedly, knew that we would cherish it as one of the most meaningful things we’d ever do. We all felt that buzz of envisioning and knowing; we could see it in each other's faces.
Nineteen years ago, our charter bus driver played “We Will Rock You” in the bus to psyche us up on the way to races. Nineteen years ago, we surged under bridges with crowds roaring overhead—crowds that grew bigger as the season progressed. Nineteen years ago, Radcliffe alumnae started sending emails and letters of support to Weld: they were watching us with so much joy and pride. Nineteen years ago, we returned from our Saturday wins to rest on Sunday and dive back into training on Monday. Our training was crisp, purposeful, professional, fun. Mornings in the weightroom. Midweek morning race pieces with 4 or 5 Harvard/Radcliffe boats lined up in the basin. Sometimes that season we lined up against the men’s varsity lightweights and the men’s freshman heavies, and held our own.
It was a beautiful season, and, again like a freight train, it built speed and momentum all the way to its final climactic moments. Nineteen years ago, we won Sprints—the V8+ and the team trophy. Nineteen years ago, we went to Nationals. At Eagle Creek Reservoir, in Indianapolis, Indiana, we took second in our heat, and then won our semi in a blazing tailwind, and then we won it all.
What does it mean now?
It's hard to express. It’s so formative. I know it’s shaped every day of my life since it happened, though usually not as conscious recollection. Occasionally I meet someone who’s interested and I tell the story of this team and the 2003 season. I tell the story with love and joy and pride, but it’s hard to escape the whiff of glory-days nostalgia.
The real way that this experience lives on for me is as something like a muscle memory of greatness. I’ve walked through my life for the past nineteen years knowing how it feels to set goals, to commit, to connect, to perform, to achieve. I know what a real team feels like. I know what authentic pride feels like. I know how it feels when discipline and professionalism are animated by confidence and joy. And because I’ve moved that way before, I’ve been able to move that way again. I can reach inside and feel it.
I think that was the genius of this team, and of the way Liz O coached us. All season long we practiced greatness, with absolute belief in ourselves and each other. As we built our bodies through training we also built our capacity for greatness. The season ended, but the greatness we built in ourselves and each other has endured—for nineteen years now. What a gift.