Mary McCagg-Larin '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 feel very excited to be here tonight and would like to thank the Varsity Club Committee for this honor. I am proud to be included with such a distinguished group of fellow inductees. I would also like to thank my family for joining me this evening to make this occasion even moer special. It does not seem possible that my last "official" practices with Radcliffe crew occurred 15 years ago! Wasn't it just last year?!
Harvard turned out to be such a great fit for me that, in hindsight, it is funny to think that my sister and I almost didn't come here at all. On our required tour, my mother tricked us into staying overnight for our first stop at Harvard. We were so sure that we were going to attend college in the south that we had only thought to spend an afternoon with the rowers at Radcliffe. I owe my mom a huge thank you for kicking us out of the car and not coming back until the next day. By the time she was ready to take us to our "sure thing", we were sold on Cambridge (was it the movie at the Brattle?) and the joy of rowing for Radcliffe (even though we got to go out with Harry Parker to watch the men's practice).
Joining the rowing team became a date with destiny for me on many levels. In the middle of our four years here, our team was asked if we would like to remain as the "Radcliffe" rowing team, or change to the "Harvard Women's" rowing team. With Radcliffe itself becoming less connected to the daily life of women at this institution, our team responded wholehearedly that we would keep our name, and race as Radcliffe. I am so glad to hear that same, "R-AD, R-A-D, R-A-D with a C, L-I-F-F, L-I-F-F-E," cheer as I watch the team launch today. My second "homecoming" came the first day that I sat down on the rowing machines during my initial days of winter training me freshman year. I sat down with some trepidation about how I would fare against my upperclass teammates, when I looked to my left and saw the framed photograph of my grandfather and his 1922 freshman team. With Grandpa Danny looking out for me, how could anything go wrong? Under his watchful gaze, I learned the value of off water training, and how it can make you love your time on the water even more.
I was lucky to be able to race with the varsity my freshman year, and remember looking forward to the beginning of my sophomore year, as it brought the introduction of a new head coach. Little did I know how deeply my life would be affected by the arrival of Liz O'Leary to the banks of the Charles River. Under her guidance, I found a love of sports that I treasure to this day, and upon which I looked back for strength when my training with the national team became almost overwhelming. Our boat that sophomore year was a "keeper", as my dad would say, with six of the eight of us making our way on the the 1988 and 1992 Olympic teams, no doubt thanks to the foundation laid by Liz and her predecessor, Lisa Stone.
I think I can honestly say that I have never had as much fun working so hard, as I did during my time with Radcliffe crew. I was belssed to have my twin sister, Betsy, along for the whole ride, and for eight years after, as we pursued our dream of Olympic gold, side by side. Through all the ups and downs of our postgraduate rowing "careers", Weld Boathouse and Liz have always been a touchstone for us both. We joke that we are now like ghosts that haunt the place. We are harmless, but unwilling to leave this building and these people who have provided us with a home away from home for these many years.
Of course, this achievement would not have been possible at all without the love and support of my family. My father was the one who introduceed my sisiter and I to rowing in the first place. It was he who made sure that we did not just turn right around when the head of our local rowing club told us that my dad had a "nice big set of boys" on our first day of practice. Even when we race now, with our team from the 1996 Olympics, I can feel him pulling for us to win, and yelling at the finish line like he did for those early races. My mom was the one who taught me to never give up. If I was going to commit to something, then I should take it all the way, knowing that she and dad would always be right behind me. I want to officially have it on the record that I can never thank you enough, mom and dad, for answering all those middle of the night phone calls, when we just needed to hear you say, "I know you can do it. Don't let anybody ever convince you otherwise." For my brother, I would like to say, "this is the last rowing event that you will have to attend for Betsy and me." Your support, your humor and your mix-tapes got me through many a tough spot over the years.
Finally, I would like to thank Radcliffe Rowing for giving me one of the most important things in my life, namely my husband and my daughter. In 1993, Harvard allowed a small number of lightweight men to train with Liz at the Radcliffe Boathouse. My husband was one of those men, and we met on the dock of Weld. Several seasons later, we were married, with Liz as a speaker at our wedding, and we brought our daughter, Piper, to see her first Radcliffe race last year when she was just a week old. I with an undefeated season and a National Championship. Who knows, she may be a future inductee into the Hall of Fame.
Thank you again to the Harvard Varsity Club for honoring me with this award, and allowing me to relive such wonderful memories.