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Radcliffe Freshman Grinalds Stepping Up Early

By Denny Purcell, Contributing Writer

For most people, mistakenly going to the wrong practice might ruin your day. But for Lucy Grinalds, a freshman on Radcliffe heavyweight crew, the mishap may have completely changed her life.

“I thought I was going to kayaking practice for about the first two weeks,” Grinalds said.  “And then I realized once I was on the water that it was nothing like kayaking.”

In fact, Grinalds did not even like rowing when she first started in 2005. It wasn’t until about a year later, after Grinalds had started working harder at the sport, that she finally started warming up to rowing.

Her rowing career has since excelled. She joined the Junior National Team in 2008 and spent four years on the squad before coming to Harvard as a freshman in 2011.

After losing a tight race to New Zealand in the 2010 World Rowing Junior Championships, Grinalds had one main goal in mind before she competed in her most recent Junior Championships this past summer in Eton, England: get to the top of the podium.

In her last year on the team, Grinalds won the United States’ first gold medal in the straight four in over a decade.

“My most memorable sporting achievement would definitely be this summer winning the Junior Worlds in London,” Grinalds said. “I’d really been trying for the past four years, and the year before that we got edged out by New Zealand by .8 of a second, so the entire year I was really training with that goal in mind.”

While her list of successes and accomplishments before coming to Harvard is hard to be matched, Grinalds now has turned her immediate focus to Radcliffe Crew.

“Currently I really want to win an NCAA Championship, [a] team championship,” Grinalds said. “That’s really going to require the entire team to just put their best foot forward all year with every stroke.”

If Harvard to achieve this feat, Grinalds will have to be a big part of it.

“She brings a lot of experience,” said junior Shelley Pearson, who rowed with Grinalds for two summers on the Junior National Team. “She’s been on the water, high pressure starting lines, and I think that she knows how to handle it and she’ll definitely bring the experience that she’s had at the international level.”

“She is definitely one of the fittest girls on our team,” co-captain Kirsten Van Fossen said. “She came in off of the Junior National Team, so she was doing lots of work this summer … We’re really happy to have her.”

Even as a first-semester freshman, Grinalds has been able to make a smooth transition to the team.

“She has a great personality; she’s one of the bubbliest freshman in the boat house,” Van Fossen said. “You don’t even feel like she’s a new member—it feels like she’s been here for over a year now.”

“It wasn’t that hard of a transition for me because I came off training for the World Championships,” Grinalds added. “The only difference is having to keep up with your school work and having two practices a day tends to be kind of a little bit overwhelming occasionally.”

Grinalds’ most recent honor was being chosen as one of five nominees for the USRowing Fan’s Choice Award for Junior Rower of the Year.

According to USRowing, the basis for nomination is “A male or female rower or coxswain who has achieved extraordinary success in 2011. Success may be defined as an outstanding performance, having a breakout year, perseverance in spite of difficult odds, consistent strong performance, outstanding service off the water, a combination of the above or other worthy measures.”

“I’m hoping that maybe I can get a couple of votes,” Grinald said. “But I was just really excited to be nominated.”

This year is the first USRowing Fan’s Choice Awards, which includes an online voting process open through October 28.

While Grinalds has set her short-term goals on being a teammate at Harvard and helping Radcliffe crew find success, she still has long-term goals to be the best.

“I also want to go the Olympics in 2016 and hopefully win gold,” she said. “That’s my main rowing goal, so we’ll see.”

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