By Melissa Quinn
For Catherine Babiec, rowing is a family affair.
Her father, Daniel, was on the crew team at Boston University well before she was born. And her brother, Thaddeus, is a junior at the Massachusetts school, following in his father’s footsteps on the banks of the Charles.
Olivia, Catherine’s sister, dons the blue and gold hues of Drexel University during her regattas. And now, Catherine is joining their ranks.
It’s in her blood.
Catherine, a Bishop Ireton senior, has enjoyed immense success on land and on water. The 17-year-old was one of 55 rowers nationwide named to the All-American Academic Honor Roll by USRowing, and come next fall, she’ll compete at the collegiate level. But, until then, Catherine is content representing the Cardinals alongside teammates she calls her extended family.
Despite her devotion to the sport, it wasn’t always about crew. Catherine’s first taste of Bishop Ireton athletics was on the track, where she competed in the mile and 800-meter run.
Her first foray on the water came at the behest of her older sister during Catherine’s sophomore year.
“Just do it for one season,” Olivia said.
Catherine initially resisted but, with a little coaxing, decided to give it a try. And once she moved from land to water, there was no going back.
“There’s just something about the sport,” Catherine said.
In less than two years, Catherine has become a standout on the Cardinals varsity crew team, training year-round with the school and practicing with the Junior National Development team during the summer — an elite group of rowers who represent the United States on an international stage.
“Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I never rowed,” she said. “I don’t even know where my life would be.”
While Catherine may not know what she wants to do in the future, she does know one thing for certain — she’ll have another four years to row. The prodigy is preparing to hit the banks of Lake Carnegie as a member of Princeton’s crew team.
After going on five official visits — Washington State University, Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton and Stanford — and one unofficial — University of Virginia — Babiec knew New Jersey was the place for her.
She committed two weeks ago.
“It just felt like me,” she said. “Some people talk about that feeling they get, and I just remember sitting there … talking to a faculty fellow and I just got this warm feeling in my chest. I knew it was where I needed to be.”
And after landing a spot on the All-American Academic honor roll, it’s apparent that Catherine isn’t a stranger to rigorous schooling. The senior boasts a schedule rife with AP and honors classes, including AP government, AP calculus and AP human geography. All she needs is her acceptance letter from Princeton.
“Catherine is an exemplar of everything we stand for and everything we hope for our students,” said Bishop Ireton principal Tim Hamer. “The fact that she’s so multidimensional…the common denominator to me is hard work. You don’t get these results just by showing up.”
Bishop Ireton’s crew season doesn’t officially start until March, but when Catherine isn’t training on the Anacostia River, she and her teammates rely on “erging” — a motion done on land using an indoor rower to stimulate the sport — to keep their stamina.
It’s her least favorite part of the sport — erging — but in the end, her passion keeps her going.
“There is just something about being on the water and giving it your all that is indescribable,” Catherine said. “Something about it makes it all worth it.”
While Catherine will join a new family at Princeton, she looks forward to spending one final season with the one she already has at Ireton.