Academics and Athletics: “It’s a Balancing Act”

IMG_5840 By: Kaitlin Hamer

Everything is regimented. This is the epitome of a team sport. We don’t half ass things, everyone is very internally motivated and willing to give 100% every day. Each stroke is for everyone else. I want to do my best because I want to bring everyone else up, I am out here because of my teammates. Catherine Babiec, Princeton Rower, Class of 2017

Catherine Appollonia Perry Babiec, a 21 year old psychology major from Alexandria, Virginia details her experience rowing crew with the Open Weight Women’s team at Princeton University with a great sense of pride and passion. Babiec’s rowing career began at Bishop Ireton High School in 2011, and has continued to flourish ever since. From being awarded MVP both her junior and senior years on the varsity team, to receiving an All Met Honorable Mention from the Washington Post, and being a member of the Princeton Varsity 4+ that placed 11th at Nationals and 3rd at the Ivy League Championships , it’s hard to believe that her introduction into the sport was hesitant.

As a sophomore in high school, Babiec reaped the benefits of having both of her older siblings also walking the halls. All three excellent students with great character and many talents, the Babiec name was beloved by both the academic and athletic communities. Catherine was not only at the top of her class at Bishop Ireton for all four years academically, but was eventually placed on the US Rowing Scholastic Honor Roll for the combination of her academic and athletic achievements. Before Catherine even entertained the thought of picking up an oar, it was evident that one of the biggest things that her siblings Thaddeus and Olivia had in common was their love of rowing crew, and all they wanted was to share it with their younger sister.

“Catherine hated rowing. Thaddeus and I both did it, and that’s all we talked about at the dinner table, because my dad was super into it since he rowed in college. But Catherine hated it, and refused to have anything to do with it.”  Olivia Babiec

The idea had never even crossed Babiec’s mind, and she carried much uncertainty as to whether she would enjoy it, or even be any good at it. After much pressure from Olivia, she ended up trying the sport and in that moment repaving her future.

“The summer going into my senior year of high school, I struck a deal with her and I said, “Catherine, if you come to one week of summer practices, I’ll brush your hair for a month”. She agreed because she loves when people brush her hair for her. So she came to practice for a week, and low and behold, after practice every day she was very quiet because she was enjoying herself. I take full credit for her success and intro to rowing.” Olivia Babiec

Not only did all three of them pick up the sport, they were all incredibly successful within it. Thaddeus was recruited by Boston University, and Olivia to Drexel. When it came time for Catherine to look at colleges, academics remained her largest priority, and what better school to have than the Princeton Rowing team calling her name. She answered that call in late October of her senior year with a commitment to the school and the team.

I am very motivated and it reflects in my academics and athletic performance. College in general is not easy, and that is especially true here. I chose to go to Princeton to get the most out of my college education and give myself the best resources possible. It has an esteemed program. I came here to be challenged academically, and as an athlete, not to be the gal on top easily. Catherine Babiec

Rowing not only allowed Babiec to connect with her family on a deeper level and gave her an outlet to shine athletically, but it has also proven beneficial in more aspects of her life. For Babiec rowing crew has taught her lessons that transcend the water into her personal life. She stated, “It’s such a long process from the first day on the water in the fall to nationals at the end of May. It’s really easy to get to nationals and think to yourself wow I could’ve tried so much harder. Staying present every practice takes a lot of diligence. Even if you aren’t feeling 100% you have to show up, and do the best you can do every single practice. That diligence has to apply to my school work as well.”

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Featured: Babiec and a few of her teammates preparing for a race.

As a student athlete, Babiec had to learn how to balance her academics as well as her athletics, and social life. Luckily her teammates are some of her closest friends, allowing her to mix work and play, but finding a balance is still a challenge. She constantly finds herself nose in her planner making sure she schedules time for all of the important things in her life. Not only does she attend and row for one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, but she has to remind herself to work hard, while also enjoying the successes that she sees in every aspect of her life.

When asked how she feels about her successes, both academic and athletic, Babiec explained, “I’ve made a lot of pretty substantial accomplishments on paper, but I am still working to improve. My personal performance has improved so I’m higher in the rankings, but more importantly I am much more consistent on my execution, but there is still lots of progress to be made. It’s difficult to balance it all, but I’ve got a pretty good system. I’m not the first or last person to be a student athlete, but that does not make it any easier.”

What’s up next for young Babiec? With her commitment, skill, and taste for excellence she has so many opportunities at her finger tips just waiting for her to jump out and grasp them. Babiec’s focused, fun loving personality not only provides the foundation for her own successes, but allows her to better her teammates. Her rowing career has only just begun, and it will be riveting to watch as she continues to reach new heights on the Princeton team.



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