Betsy McCagg '89
Crew - Hall of Fame Class of 2004
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Betsy and Mary are nearly impossible to separate on an athletic level. In their freshman year at Harvard, Betsy raced in the second varsity eight, Mary in the first. That was the only year that they were not in the same boat together. For the next three years, both raced in the first varsity eight. In their sophomore year, they were undefeated in dual racing and won the EAWRC Championships. In their junior year they finished second to Brown at the EAWRC Championships and in their senior year, they were again undefeated in the dual racing season and won the EAWRC Championships. Also in their senior year, the team chose to attend the Women’s Henley Regatta rather than the National Championships, and at Henley they swept both the Women’s Open Eight and the Women's Open Four events. All-East and All-Ivy League award winners in 1989, they were the force behind the success of Radcliffe Crew from 1986 - 1989 and left behind a four-year record that has yet to be repeated.
Remembering Harvard Athletics
I would like to thank the Harvard Varsity Club for the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Rowing was such a huge part of my time at Harvard, and served as a foundation for my first "career" as a rower for the US National Team. This award brings back the pure joy I got from racing for Radcliffe Crew, which proved impossible to recreate once I had graduated. What can compare to a winter workout in the tank, while you pray for the river to unthaw? What can match the excitement of the weekly races in the spring, or the immensity of the Head of the Charles in the fall?
It hadn't really occurred to me that those days were so long ago, as I still spend quality time at Weld boathouse, dashing up and down the Charles with my sister in our two person boat. Then, over the winter, a current athlete started talking with me about training. I thought she was looking for advice from a "national team perspective", but what she said was, "Wow, I hope I still want to work out when I am your age." Ouch! It can't be that long ago that my Mom literally had to kick my sister and I out of the car on Memorial Drive, so I could meet with Coach Lisa Stone. We heard later that Lisa had told her team, "There are 6'2 twins from Seattle coming to visit. You may not care if you row with them, but you are going to care if you have to row against them." As it turns out, we had scheduled our visit for the first time that acceptance letters were going out, so we couldn't technically meet with Lisa. Instead we had to go out with Harry Parker and watch the men's team practice. Our fate was sealed!
When Liz O'Leary took over as head coach my sophomore year, I had no idea how much she would affect my life at school and beyond. As my Mom likes to point out, Liz develops not only fine rowers, but also fine women. Her National Championship team of 2003 is clear evidence of this. Through Liz I learned valuable life lessons, which applied both on and offthe water. I learned that hard work I put in today would pay off in the future, and began to take as much pride in my training as my racing. I discovered wells of strength, both physically and mental, that I have called on in the tough times. But most importantly, Liz showed me the strength of a team. Being a member of a truly cohesive team, where each member felt important and valued, was something I was blessed to experience throughout my years with Liz. It is a feeling that I find hard to discribe to "outsiders", but it is one that I cherish in my life. I think that the wonderful years I had with Radcliffe Crew enabled me to keep rowing through three Olympics. Having Liz in my corner, for confidence building phone calls, and vent sessions, as she shared her own olympic experiences, was essential to me, and I thank her for that.
I also want to thank my family for their support and ecouragement. Rowing takes a special kind of personality, as 99% of your time is spent training, for that glorious 1% of racing. To succeed at such an effort, I needed a spirit that was formed by my close family. I would like to thank my Mom, from whom I get my tenacity and passion for winning. I would like to thank my Dad, from whom I get my patience and calmness in the face of adversity. I would also like to thank my brother, who taught me the power of a little levity and the wonder of sarcasm. And I would like to thank my twin sister Mary, who has made this entire journey with me. She allowed me to yell on the water, and laugh off the water. She was my biggest supporter when I felt alone in my dreams to make an Olympic boat. From the days at the Eastern Sprints when Liz would ask us to go stalk around the other teams to intimidate them before the races, to the Opening Ceremonies at our first Olympics, she has been right beside me. Iam so proud that the Varsity Club is recognizing our accomplishments together.