USRowing to rename Female Athlete of the Year Award in honor of Carie Graves

PRINCETON, NJ – USRowing will be renaming its Female Athlete of the Year Award in honor of the late Carie Graves, the organization’s Board of Directors announced this week. A legend in the sport, Graves helped launch the rowing program at The University of Texas and served as head coach for its first 16 years.

The 2022 Carie Graves Female Athlete of the Year Award will be selected by the athletes on this year’s senior national team following the 2022 World Rowing Championships scheduled for September in Racice, Czech Republic.

“As a female rower in the US, you knew who Carie Graves was even if you’d never met her,” said Taylor Ritzel, female athlete representative on the USRowing Board of Directors and 2012 Olympic gold medalist. “Her grit, fearlessness, and leadership were attributes I remember learning about even as I was starting the sport. Not only did she pave the way for decades of strong American female rowers to follow, but her commitment to her team and bettering the sport directly impacted me and my teammates’ opportunities in rowing. By naming the Female Athlete of the Year award after Carie, the current team will not only vote for the female rower who leads in performance on and off the water, but they will also choose the woman who best embodies Carie’s ethos and character, someone who leaves an incredibly positive impact on the team and sport.”

Graves built the Texas Rowing program from the ground up beginning in the fall of 1998, steering the Longhorns to two NCAA Championships appearances and five conference titles before retiring from coaching in 2014.

Texas earned its first NCAA Championships bid in 2003, when the first varsity eight placed 12th nationally, and made a return visit to the championship regatta in 2004, with the first eight finishing 15th. It was a historic year for Texas Rowing in 2004 as Ruth Stiver and Julie Keedy became the program’s first Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) All-Americans.

Graves directed Texas to four-straight Big 12 crowns, leading UT to victory at the inaugural Big 12 Championship in 2009 and repeating the feat in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The three-time US Olympian also led the Longhorns to victory at the 2011 Conference USA Championship.

Prior to taking the reins in Austin, Graves served as the head women’s rowing coach for 10 seasons at Northeastern University (1988–98). She broke into the coaching profession as the head women’s crew coach at Harvard/Radcliffe in 1977 and served there through 1983.

Graves enjoyed a distinguished rowing career of her own and was selected to three US Olympic teams (1976, ’80 and ’84) and five additional US national teams (1975, ’77, ’79, ’81 and ’83). Graves helped the USA women’s eight to gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and bronze at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Graves was a member of the US Olympic Team that boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games. At the 1975 World Championships she won a silver medal as stroke of the “Red Rose Crew” that ushered in a new era of competition for women in the male dominated sport.

“There can be no female athlete with more ‘firsts’ in the sport than Carie Graves,” said teammate Carol Brown in a testimonial in support of renaming the award. “She was THE figurehead and hero for everyone who was fortunate to have a chance to be in any of her boats – even just at a selection camp. She remains the iconic example of passion, power, and commitment to every stroke and every teammate. At the same time, she was ever humble and always thinking about the team, not her individual results or status. There will never be another Carie Graves, and it (is) a tremendous and fitting honor to have the award in her name.”

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) selected Graves as US Rowing’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1981 and 1984. The National Rowing Foundation inducted Graves twice into its Hall of Fame as a member of the 1980 and 1984 US Olympic Teams and she was selected as one of the “Century’s Most Notable People” in American Rowing by the 2000-01 American Rower’s Almanac.

A 1976 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Graves guided the Badgers to the 1975 National Rowing Association Championship, the first National Championship to be won by a UW varsity women’s team. A native of Madison, Wisc., Graves was the first-ever inductee into the school’s Women’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984 and was ranked No. 16 on her alma mater’s list of “Top 100 Athletes of the Century.” Graves completed a master’s of education at Harvard in 1985.

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