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Any athlete will tell you that it takes a lot to compete at a varsity level in a Division I program, beyond the obvious time commitment that practice, weight-lifting, and conditioning require. A Harvard athlete also has the unique and rigorous responsibility of balancing athletics and academics, not to mention the wide array of extracurricular and social opportunities the university has to offer.
That sounds like enough.
But imagine being a dual-sport athlete—double the commitment, double the time, double the practice, and double the pressure. Most would never give the idea any thought.
But junior Anne Carroll “AC” Ingersoll, a member of the Crimson women’s volleyball team, cannot count herself among the daunted after taking on the challenge of one of Harvard’s oldest, most demanding, and most celebrated sports: heavyweight crew.
Combining water and court, boat and net, the California native is proving how versatile a Harvard student and athlete can be.
“Being in season once a semester just wasn’t enough,” the junior said, laughing. “There’s something that I get out of athletics...that I just don’t get anywhere else...I was ready to learn a new skill.”
Ingersoll’s cousin, Jennie Peterson ’10, walked on to the heavyweight crew team as a freshman and rowed all four years for the Crimson.
“[Jennie] always raved about her experience on the crew team,” Ingersoll said. “She has been working on me since the day I found out I got into Harvard.”
Peterson’s pressure finally paid off, and Ingersoll went to Florida as a part of crew’s annual trip to begin her formal training.
“During the time we spent in Florida, [Ingersoll] immersed herself immediately into what we were doing and how we are trying to row,” Harvard coach Liz O’Leary said. “She was outstanding.”
Unlike other walk-ons, Ingersoll comes ready-made with the seasoned experience and leadership of a varsity athlete, serving as team captain in the most recent of her three years on the volleyball team.
“Anytime that an upperclassmen, even with a little experience, joins our program, they bring maturity,” O’Leary said. “AC certainly brings that level of maturity...but she’s also very humble about the fact that she isn’t nearly as experienced as everyone around her. She can laugh at her mistakes and...is just very coachable.”
But one aspect of the sport that the 6’2” junior does not need to be taught is one that is important throughout athletics: teamwork.
“After playing for so long, I know how to be on a team. I know what that means, and I know the kind of commitment that it takes,” Ingersoll said. “I think the ability to be on a team is not something that everyone knows, but I’ve been lucky enough to experience it, and to understand all the work that goes into it but also the rewards that come from it.”
“AC loves her teammates,” echoed newly elected volleyball captain, Sandra Lynne Fryhofer. “She makes even the most difficult situations light-hearted...and has a competitiveness that you can’t teach.”
Ingersoll, along with Fryhofer, was named to the Academic All-Ivy League team earlier this year, proving again that she can handle the pressure both on the court and in the classroom.
The attitude allowed AC to garner early success in volleyball, earning Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors her freshman year. For Ingersoll, it just comes down to work ethic, another critical characteristic in both of her sports.
“It’s fun to be successful and to make progress in such a tangible way, as in athletics,” Ingersoll said.
Despite the differences between the two sports, Ingersoll, her coaches, and her teammates are confident that the skills earned in each will complement each other in their respective seasons.
“This is going to be difficult—both physically and emotionally—but I think [AC] will have a great experience and develop as an athlete,” Fryhofer said. “I think the mental and physical endurance she will gain in crew will tranfer well onto the volleyball court.”
“I’ve been doing things on the crew team that I didn’t think that I could do,” Ingersoll added. “I never thought I’d be able to do an [erg test], to even get through it. But just to be out of my comfort zone...and still give it my best is something that I think will be really helpful with volleyball.”
Whether or not the junior finds the same success on the water that she has on the court, she has proven that only a select few can take the risk of balancing the grueling lifestyle of varsity athletics and an Ivy League education.
Her crew coach summed her up perfectly: “She’s a rare breed.”
—Staff writer B. Marjorie Gullick can be reached at email@example.com.
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