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An Historic Olympic Feat; An Ongoing Passion For UW Rowing

Nov 30, 2020

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From the Fall, 2020, edition of SWEEP Magazine
For a kid who was literally forced to take up rowing — initially agreeing to be a coxswain since it seemed a lazy way of competing — Betsy Beard Stillings rose to the pinnacle of the sport and won Olympic gold.
The UW alum laughs about being compelled to play a sport as a teen at an elite East Coast boarding school.
"I had to choose between rowing and tennis. They said, you're really little, you could be the coxswain. You can just sit in the back of the boat. That sounded really good to me," she recalls.
By the time Betsy figured out the coxswain had much bigger responsibilities than just sitting in the boat, she was hooked. Wearing a cardboard megaphone strapped to her head, she coxed winning boats in high school and for the junior national team until she transferred to Washington for her last two years of college.
"I needed a pharmacy school and somewhere I could row," states Betsy, who knew then-UW Coach Bob Ernst from her national team experience. "When Washington won the national championship in 1981, that sealed the deal."
In both her years at the UW, Betsy coxed back-to-back national championships. After graduation, she chased a new dream: competing in the 1984 Olympics, guiding the boat that won the first-ever gold medal for the United States in the Women's Eight. She went on to compete in three World Championships and the 1988 Olympics.
Today, Betsy relishes her ongoing support for Husky student-athletes and alumni. A member of the Washington Rowing Stewards, she was instrumental in the late 1980s in providing a fun and comfortable enclosure for alumni and parents to enjoy the Windermere Cup, a tradition she continues to manage.
Now, in the wake of COVID-19's impact on Husky Athletics, she urges other alumni to give back to the program that gave them so much.
"When you invest in young people, you invest in the future of our culture and our country," Betsy concludes. "I want new generations of Husky rowers to come out with skills I learned when I was rowing. They deserve the opportunity to become strong citizens."