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    Saturday, April 20, 2024

    Old Lyme's Moriarty overcomes season of adversity, tragedy at Holy Cross

    Old Lyme's Maegan Moriarty recently graduated Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., following a trying senior season that included the death of a teammate following an accident in Florida and the cancellation of her final rowing season because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Holy Cross athletics)

    Maegan Moriarty endured a series of difficult losses during her final semester in college.

    She lost a good friend and teammate during a tragic accident in which she also was injured.

    She lost a chance to compete one last season with her Holy Cross rowing team.

    She lost a chance to walk across the stage at graduation this spring.

    Yet she counts her blessings despite all that hardship.

    "It truly has been an interesting senior experience," said Moriarty, who's from Old Lyme. "I think that I've had a lot of growth as a person because of what has happened in the last few months between the accident and going home due to corona and transitioning to online classes.

    "I also recognize how fortunate I am to be part of a team and to have close friends, both on and off the team, and family. ... It's been a good eye opener to be able to see what I do have and count my blessings. Even when I feel like I'm unfortunate, I truly am fortunate."

    Moriarty, who learned to row with the Blood Street Sculls in Old Lyme and attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, earned the respect and admiration of her teammates, coaches and classmates.

    The Patriot League, which Holy Cross belongs to, selected Moriarty as the female recipient of the 2019-20 Outstanding Leadership and Character Award.

    The award's definition of leadership and character includes but is not limited to any of the following ideals: "demonstrated leadership on the field of competition and within the campus community; promotes a leadership vision for the betterment of one's team or teammates; mentorship of teammates; role model on campus; active participation in on-campus and/or community service projects; perseverance in overcoming hardships; demonstration of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship."

    Moriarty demonstrated those qualities in the aftermath of a January accident in Florida. The Crusaders were on a preseason training trip when their van collided with a pick-up truck in Vero Beach, killing sophomore Grace Rett and injuring 11 other team members.

    As the lone senior on the team and a captain, Moriarty looked out for the physical and mental well being of her teammates while recovering from her own injuries.

    She made sure her teammates had the resources and outlets needed for their recovery. She served as their voice and advocate, demanding action when necessary.

    "Sticking up for them and being their voice was important and that was part of my role as captain," Moriarty said. "After the accident, I knew I needed to protect my teammates."

    Aaron Dashiell, the college's assistant director of athletics for student-athlete development, detailed Moriarty's impact in a press release announcing the award winners.

    "Upon returning to campus and attending a number of wakes, funerals and memorial for their fallen teammate, everyone looked for Maegan to be their rock and she was," Dashiell said. "Maegan, missing teeth due to the accident, was the first one to coordinate a team meeting with the counseling centers. She organized a weekly meeting for her and her teammates to meet with counseling. Recognizing the trauma her team had been through, she could be viewed as the team mom.

    Moriarty's personal road to recovery continues.

    She suffered injuries to her head and mouth as well as abrasions and cuts.

    "I was actually med-flighted to the hospital, which is really crazy," Moriarty said. "It was just a chaotic, sad, sad day that I'll never forget for the rest of my life."

    After spending a little over a day in the hospital, she was released but remained in Florida to heal before heading home to Old Lyme. She returned to her college apartment about two and a half weeks after the tragedy.

    It was a challenging transition to school.

    Moriarty had trouble focusing and struggled to complete assignments.

    "I wasn't able to sit in the class without thinking about the trauma," Moriarty said. "It was tough. I came from being a student who was used to excelling and loved learning and just being in the classroom to feeling like I couldn't be there because it was hurting me physically. Then also just mentally and emotionally it was tough being there knowing that my teammates were still in the hospital and that terrible thing had just so recently happened.

    "Putting things into perspective, school seems almost trivial when you know your teammates are still fighting or not alive because of an accident that happened."

    With support from her family, friends and professors, Moriarty overcame all that adversity and finished her final semester strong.

    But Moriarty never had a chance to compete with her rowing teammates again. The NCAA canceled its spring season in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    It was difficult enough losing her senior season. But she also had lost out on the chance to honor Rett and her teammates that were still recovering from injuries.

    "To have that goal basically stripped away just felt so heart-breaking and tough," Moriarty said. "I know ultimately us just even trying and just picking up and working hard after what had happened is what Grace would see as enough of an honor. That's what I think she would have wanted us to do. She would be proud of us, no matter what."

    Moriarty is preparing for the next phase in her life.

    In August, she'll begin a job working as a national sales analyst for PepsiCo in White Plains, N.Y. She majored in Spanish as well as Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

    She hopes to continue rowing.

    "Ideally, I'd love to be involved in a club when I move to New York," Moriarty said.

    g.keefe@theday.com

    Old Lyme's Maegan Moriarty recently graduated Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., following a trying senior season that included the death of a teammate following an accident in Florida and the cancellation of her final rowing season because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Holy Cross athletics)

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