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Alumni Stories

An Olympic Dream: Regina Salmons '14

At Derryfield, a common, unseen thread that I wasn’t able to recognize until after graduating was how fearless we were encouraged to be. Jump, try anything while embracing the possibility of failure. Race down the ski course a little faster than you feel comfortable doing, take the harder class, try a new club you don’t have any background in. When I told my art teacher Mr. Moerlein I wanted to build my senior sculpture out of wood, he gave me a hand saw, showed me how to use it, and told me to go get my own trees from the backwoods. So you jump—you put your head down and go to work.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, my dream started when I was an overgrown thirteen-year-old during freshman preseason, unable to do a single push-up. Racing the youth single at New Hampshire Championships four years later I had the same butterflies in my stomach as sitting on the Olympic line this summer. I wrote my senior honors poetry thesis at Penn with the same care and consideration as my essays for AP English with Mr. Anthony and Ms. Shutz. Every little thing adds up: being pushed by my teachers, coaches, and peers to jump over whatever threshold was in front of me at the time. Derryfield opens so many doors for all of us—it just takes picking which door to jump through.

Making the Olympic team while isolated as a squad for COVID was a mammoth challenge, one I went into as an underdog and emerged out of in the priority boat. Of the 50 women we started with in 2018, COVID cut us down to 25, of which 12 rowers and one coxswain were named to the 2020(1) Olympic squad. I have the utmost immense respect for my teammates—the ones with me in Tokyo and the ones who were with me along the way.
The best part about rowing full-time is the fact that every day is a unique challenge: a new lineup with different teammates to work with; wild weather that pushes you to work smarter not harder; new technical changes you have to absorb into your muscle memory; a fitness test designed to find your breaking point… and instead of breaking, learning how to tie a knot and hold on.

All of which I feel Derryfield prepared me for immensely. With a complete liberal arts education, we were always encouraged to try new things and be versatile in our knowledge and ability. Adaptability with fearlessness has made all the difference in my academic and athletic life. Being ready to answer any question in class on the fly or creatively thinking up a way to finish the drama improv scene, Derryfield helped me be unafraid of the next unknown question. Constantly being challenged by my incredibly smart classmates, debates in history classes felt like great ping pong matches and group projects required collaborative genius. If the Kool-Aid in Mrs. Robichaud’s sixth grade science class doesn’t taste right, you change the formula and trust the process of hard work.  
I love being part of a team sport—working with other women towards a common goal, connected by our love of rowing and each other. You see how incredibly hard each woman works; without praise, without promise of a medal, or even guarantee of making the squad. It’s for the love of sport and to see how far you can push yourself in every aspect—how fast can the boat even go? This next quadrennial, along with the rest of the world we will continue to chase those records and push not only ourselves but the speed of the sport.

Though we may have fallen short of our goal of medaling this Olympic cycle, the grind continues and we adjust and learn. As a squad, we have so much more to give. It’s been the honor of a lifetime to represent the USA and Derryfield at the highest level of my sport, and I’m going to continue to grind every day to hopefully bring back a (gold) medal for you all. 

Regina Salmons ’14

After graduating from Penn in 2018, Regina moved to train full-time in Princeton, NJ, with the women’s rowing Olympic Training Center (OTC). She has four national team nominations (two U23, one Senior, one Olympic) and is a three-time U23 gold medalist (2016 & 2018). Regina returned to Derryfield this fall to coach the rowing team and speak to students.
Watch her speech at Community Meeting, when a new rowing shell was dedicated in her honor. 

The Derryfield School

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