Athlete in Focus: Regan Mary Cronin

In her first year as a rower, senior Regan Mary Cronin won the USRowing 2022 Youth National Championship in June and the same day verbally committed to the University of Southern California.

“It was surreal. It was crazy,” said Cronin.

Mike Wallin, Head Coach of Chicago Rowing Foundation, said being a first-year rower and one of the top eight rowers who won the national championship is “pretty unheard of.”

Cronin has been an athlete “her whole life,” and has always had aspirations to continue her athletic career into college, she said.

“I’ve been in love with USC really my entire life,” said Cronin, whose mother and sisters attended the college. “It was a very easy decision for me.”

Long before Cronin was receiving offers from the top colleges, she “was a swimmer and water polo player, and…really loved it,” she said. But by fall of her junior year, she “was coming to a point where (she) wanted to try something new and just see what would happen.”

It was this willingness that led her to try a week trial at the Chicago Rowing Foundation, where some of her friends rowed.

Senior Finn Mattes and fellow rower said, “I recommended it to her a million times, and she finally did it.”

Cronin was hooked. “I absolutely loved it and thought it was really cool,” she said. She made the decision to focus on rowing full time, and has been rowing year-round ever since.

Cronin has nine siblings, all of whom played sports throughout their childhood. “Up until last year, I had never been on a sports team without one of my siblings,” she said.

Cronin’s older sister, Rory Cronin (OPRF class of 2022) said, “When she left (water) polo and swim I knew I was going to miss her,” but she was excited to “see where her new journey led.”

In the Cronin family, sports are seen as a way to “be competitive” and “build great friendships,” said Rory Cronin.

Taking the leap of faith to an entire new sport, Cronin was supported by her family. “There was nothing to lose by just trying,” she said.

“She was a beast from the start,” said Mattes, citing Cronin’s height and strength.

First-year rowers typically start on the same boat, to learn the way and gain experience. But Cronin “started to excel super early and about halfway through the season, we decided to move her up to the varsity,” said Wallin.

“It was impressive to see her improve vastly in such a rapid time frame,” said Mattes.

Besides being a talented athlete, Cronin is a hard-working student and encouraging teammate. “She’s a fun person to be around,” said Mattes. “She’s the type of person that makes rowing more fun.”

Cronin says that the team sports she played when she was younger taught her to work well with others. “It’s similar to being in a big family,” she said, “I have seven sisters already, so getting into a boat of eight girls wasn’t that different.”

Cronin credits those formative experiences to helping “develop (her) leadership skills.”

Having her as “one of the best athletes” as well as a “natural leader” has a big influence on the team spirit, said Wallin.

Looking forward, USC may not be the end of Cronin’s career as an athlete. “I would love to take it as far as I could,” she said.

Since Cronin is so new to the sport, there’s no way of knowing how much more she could improve, said Wallin, “I think it’ll be really interesting to see how much of these other top athletes around the country can improve by the time they go to college and how much more room (Cronin) has to push past them. Her upside is huge.”