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Collins ’19 Is a Leader on Women’s Crew Team

by catherine elvy, staff writer 

For one Princeton University senior, grueling routines are just part of pursuing her Olympic dreams.

“I’m an Olympic hopeful. There’s lots of training and hard times ahead,” said Claire Collins ’19, an accomplished rower.

In July, Collins ’19 helped the United States capture the 2018 World Rowing Under 23 Championship in Poland. Overall, the United States team took home eight medals. Collins helped the United States to clock a 6:08.04 in the women’s eight, 0.19 seconds ahead of the United Kingdom for the bronze medal.

Olympics2018After graduation, Collins plans to train with USRowing, a non-profit organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the governing body for crew in the United States. Based in Princeton, USRowing selects and manages the American teams that compete in world championships, Pan American Games, and the Olympics. 

Just as Collins is committed to rigorous training to excel in her sport of seven years, the Virginia native also is equally dedicated to living out her Christian faith in the classroom and boathouse. A key part of that commitment involves regular participation in her weekly Bible Course hosted by Christian Union.

“It’s a very important part of Christianity, just being connected to His Word and community,” said Collins. “We delve into Scripture. We break it down verse by verse… I’ve come closer to Christ.”

As a freshman, Collins became active in Christian Union’s ministry at Princeton, including Bible courses under the helm of Katie Fields, the manager of Christian Union’s Melrose Center and the wife of Ministry Director James Fields. Such discipleship helped Collins to reflect on her relationship with Jesus Christ as she propels through the challenges of being a standout student-athlete. Click to Tweet
“I’m with my teammates a lot. It’s an incredibly team-oriented sport.” But initially, she said, “I wasn’t comfortable with bringing up faith,” said Collins. Today, “I have many more conversations with friends.”

Now, as an incoming co-captain of the women’s crew team at Princeton, Collins hopes to steer her teammates to ponder some of life’s bigger perspectives and to be mindful of the ultimate source of individual worth. “God has a plan,” said Collins. 

While crew may appear to be an effortless, fluid sport, it involves mixes of agony, adrenaline, and sportsmanship. Champion rowers note the sport is one of the few where perseverance can eclipse natural talent. Likewise, teammates bond in the boat as they pull together for power, synchronicity, and sprint.

As a sophomore at Princeton, Collins learned a series of lessons after breaking a rib following high-intensity training. “It’s a very grueling sport,” she said. Given that, Collins hopes to offer a safe harbor for teammates and classmates to ask life’s tough questions.

On top of exhausting practice and course loads, plus regatta schedules that involve globetrotting, Collins also serves as vice president of Princeton’s Varsity Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

James Fields called Collins a blessing and a true leader. “Her love for Jesus is obvious, and it is contagious,” he said. “I have no doubt that God will use Claire to evoke transformative change for His glory within our society and beyond.”

At Princeton, Collins follows in the footsteps of her grandfather and great-grandfather. Farnham F. Collins, Princeton ’57, is an asset manager and governor and president of the Millbrook Hunt, one of the premier equestrian organizations in North America. The late John D. Archbold, Princeton ’34, was a philanthropist, businessman, and trustee emeritus of Syracuse University.

Among her extensive credentials, Collins won silver at the 2017 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in the women’s eight. As well, she triumphed in the varsity eight at the Ivy League Championships in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Collins discovered crew during March of her freshman year of high school. A few months later, she landed a spot on USRowing’s Under 19 National Team.

“I had an unusual ascent,” she said.