Faith Richardson started her high school sports career as a cross country star for Wellesley High near Boston.
But after suffering a series of injuries, she took up rowing in the winter of her sophomore year to rehab and stay in shape.
That decision changed the course of her life as Richardson fell in love with crew.
Transferring to Groton School (Mass.), Richardson continued to excel in running but her rowing career took off as she competed in the 2009 and 2010 Junior World Championships and led the Groton women’s 8 to victory at the 2011 Women’s Henley Regatta.
For Richardson, running and rowing complemented each other. “Both sports require the same kind of intensity and dedication,” said Richardson, who was the 2009 ISL cross country champion and was a three-year MVP for the Groton squad. “Running is tough.”
Opting to focus on rowing in college, Richardson joined the Princeton University women’s open crew program in 2011.
Richardson acknowledged that the first two years of college rowing were tough for her.
“Probably the volume and intensity was the biggest difference, any freshman will tell you that,” said Richardson, who rowed on the second varsity 8 her first two seasons, helping the boat take first in the Ivy championships and fourth in the NCAAs in 2012 and then place third in the Ivies and sixth at the NCAAs the next year.
“The biggest jump was from freshman to sophomore year; I did a lot of strength work that summer. I had some injuries freshman year. I had a hernia at the end of fall and a shoulder injury that winter that kept me out for 12 weeks.”
Competing on the second varsity helped Richardson become a stronger rower.
“The 2V has traditionally been a good boat, you can learn a lot from it,” said Richardson. “My freshman year on the boat was awesome. We had really good senior leadership. It was a really tough boat. It was also a really good boat in my sophomore year.”
As a junior, Richardson moved up to the varsity 8, helping it win the Ivy regatta and then finish seventh at the NCAAs.
“It was definitely tough, it was a different boat,” said Richardson, reflecting on moving up to the top boat.
“We had a rough start and then did well in Ivies. The NCAAs was definitely humbling for the boat coming off Ivies. Winning the petite final was good coming from where we were.”
Coming into her final season, Richardson had the honor of being selected as the co-captain of the open team along with classmate Nicki Byl.
“You always look up to the captain, we have had some very strong women on this team,” said Richardson. “I am a major believer in leading by example. Nicki is the co-captain and we both bring different things.”
Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny credits Richardson with setting a good example on a daily basis.
“Faith is very hard working,” said Dauphiny. “She has a work ethic that very few have and is an example of what it takes.”
The Tigers had to work hard to get on track this spring, getting a late start on the water due to icy conditions on Lake Carnegie. Princeton suffered early season defeats to Virginia and Brown before
ending the regular season with a 4-0 run and taking third at the Ivy Regatta.
As a result of the strong finish, the Tigers earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, which are taking place from May 29-31 at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center in Gold River, Calif. Princeton is one of three collegiate programs (Brown and Washington) to be invited to every NCAA Championships regatta since the inaugural event in 1997.
For Richardson, making the NCAAs is the ideal way to cap her Princeton career.
“Definitely getting the bid for the NCAAs was great, that was one of the goals we had this season,” said Richardson. “We need to find more speed against the boats we have raced, as well as the different boats we will see. We have been working pretty hard this week.”
Richardson and her classmates are bringing a sense of urgency to their final push.
“We are going at this as a team, looking to do well as a team,” said Richardson. “I am ready to graduate. We have a lot of seniors on the NCAA boats and we are all going at this with the same attitude.”
After graduation, Richardson has her eye on joining another special team, having applied to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Officer Candidates School.
“I am interested in doing intelligence, I appreciate military values,” said Richardson, who plans to row this summer for a club in Great Britain.
“I like the training. I may do government law enforcement. I figure it could be worth a shot.”
But this weekend, Richardson will be focused on taking a shot at NCAA glory.