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Pulling for the Team

Senior Captain Leaves Radcliffe Crew for Nationals

By Dafna V. Hochman

With a last name that means "oar" in Latin, Dana A. Remus '97 seemed destined to row. The sport has helped transform the senior heavyweight crew captain from a skinny, uncoordinated kid to the leader of a winning boat this year, which will try out for the U.S. National Rowing Team.

According to teammates and family, hard work and discipline have led to overwhelming and unexpected success on the water. According to her mother, Ann, Remus has always embodied her grandfather's favorite quotation: "Anything worth doing is worth doing well."

These traits will be tested when she enters the rigorous National Team tryouts in San Francisco this summer.

Crew was not Dana's first love. As a child growing up in Bedford, New Hampshire, Dana was an academic stand-out who lacked athletic ability, which she attributes to "no eye-hand coordination."

But the summer before she was to depart for St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, her father, worried that she would bring no athletic skills to a boarding school that required every student to play sports, tried teaching her squash. After attempting squash, track and cross-country skiing, the skinny Remus finally was convinced by her older sister that crew was a sport that didn't require coordination but rather hard work, something that Remus was used to as an industrious student.

Remus fell in love with rowing and at 14 began working hard to increase her strength and stamina by running and working out.

Her mother recalls that from child-hood Remus liked setting goals and accomplishing them.

Remus says she was never a star in high school--where her main sport was cross-country--and she wasn't recruited to row in college. But she says it took only one day at the Weld Boathouse "to realize that Radcliffe Crew was incredible."

"My freshman year, it was just an unbelievable team with a contagious spirit," she says. "The seniors embodied everything I wanted to be and they subsumed to the team as a whole, all the while having so much fun."

Remus' determination that her team be the best fills her voice when she describes her discouraging sophomore and junior Years, when the first heavy-weight boat came in only seventh and eleventh respectively.

"I was a basket-case. My mission was to get Radcliffe fast. I worked my ass off because I was convinced I could do it myself," says Remus, Now 5'10" and 138 lbs.

Radcliffe Heavyweight Coach Elizabeth H. O'Leary, Dana's coach for the past three years, attests to Dana's incredible hard work, dedication, and commitment to excellence.

"She works hard to be the best and it has been amazing to see her physical growth as well as her mental focus improve," she says.

Now at the end of her Harvard years, Dana scolds herself for arrogantly thinking that she alone could improve the team. Even as she worked harder, the boat kept getting slower.

This year, though, things were different. With new coaches and new blood in the boat house, the team began a "mission from hell," doubling their training time and, Remus says, tripling their mental intensity.

The new attitude brought disappointing results all winter and in the first half of the spring season: not one victory.

The heavyweights tallied their first win April 26, against Yale. The victory marked a turning point, and the team finished with a winning season, took fourth in the Eastern Sprints, and qualified for the NCAA Championship tournament, in which they competed from Friday to Sunday.

Remus attributes her team's success this season to improved team spirit and mental intensity. "Convinced that our boat was fast, we had no competition within our team, we were on a collective mission...with so much heart and soul in it," she says.

Again and again, Remus modestly downplays her own achievements, pointing out that the team's success relies on every rower. Heavyweight rower Erin E. O'Malley '98, marvels at her teammate's modesty, adding that Remus has "done a wonderful job leading the team both in and out of the boat house."

Other rowers call her a role model, echoing the awe Remus felt for the senior rowers her first year.

"She is honestly one of the most inspirational women that I have ever met, as an athlete, a leader, a teammate. On the water, she is fiercely competitive. There is never any doubt that she goes out to win," says team coxswain Diane E. Marks '99.

When Remus receives her diploma tomorrow, marking her honors degree in East Asian Studies, her Harvard experience will be finished. Like many athletes, Dana has divided her Harvard years into two spheres: academic and athletic. She will eventually continue her academic sphere by pursuing a graduate degree in Chinese history.

According to her Senior Thesis Adviser, Richard S. Horowitz, Remus was extraordinarily motivated about her academics. "Without any doubt, she was the most disciplined student I have ever taught here," he wrote in an e-mail.

Horowitz attributes Remus's modest and community-minded perspective to her crew experience. "In some ways, I think her commitment to rowing--a sport which focuses on the group--has shaped her outlook in general," he wrote in an e-mail. "Much more than most, Dana appreciates the efforts that others put in."

Remus ascribes her personal success only to the success of Radcliffe Crew. She constantly praises the other rowers, especially those in the Novice Boats. In addition, she credits O'Leary and the long line of National Rowers to come out of the Radcliffe Crew Program.

Although she looks forward to rowing for National Coach Hartmut Buschbaker, she says she is sad to leave her teammates and the Radcliffe program. "Part of what I love about the sport is Radcliffe Crew," she says. "It will be a hard adjustment."

Remus follows a legacy of Radcliffe Crew alumnae who went on to national prominence. Twin sisters Mary and Betsy McCagg (both '89), Lindsay H. Burns '87, and Cecile Ulrich Tucker '91 all competed last summer in Atlanta.

Remus, although modest about her past, is sure of her future. "I do have confidence I will stick with it until I'm good enough," she says.

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