Each morning, a sharp alarm wakes senior Molly Duncan at 5:15 a.m. She grabs a bite to eat before driving to the St. Joseph’s boathouse. It’s a tiresome schedule but one she fully embraces as the life of a student-athlete.

Duncan’s first sports love was basketball, which she started playing when she was 5 with her family. She quickly evolved into a dual-sporting threat when she picked up field hockey in sixth grade. She continued both sports through high school at Berks Catholic, where she earned all-division honors in basketball and led her team to two county titles. She also was named a two-time all-division selection in field hockey.

When it came time for the Reading product to pick what college she was going to attend, her goal was to continue playing basketball.

“I reached out to a few different coaches in the Centennial Conference,” Duncan said. “And I liked the coach from Ursinus the best. That was also the campus I liked best, and I didn’t want to be too far from home.”

Duncan played 23 games for the Grizzly Bears during the 2019 season. While she was given minutes her first year, Duncan began thinking about transferring about midway through the spring semester.

“The best way to put it is that I don’t think Ursinus was the best fit for me,” Duncan said. “I loved my classes and the math department. Those were some of the best professors I’ve ever had, but the coaching style and the team I didn’t mesh well with.”

Once set on transferring, Duncan set her sights on St. Joe’s, as her older brother had attended the university. She was prepared to engulf herself in becoming a regular student, but was somewhat concerned as she was used to having to manage sports and classes.

“I’d be running around throughout high school because of sports,” Duncan said. “I was always used to having both practice and classes, so I didn’t really know how I was going to adjust to not having anything else to focus on other than school.”

It wasn’t until a fateful encounter with a family friend at Duncan’s home that the idea of rowing even crossed her mind.

“My aunt’s friend came and noticed that I had just finished working out and said, ‘Wow you look strong, you should join the rowing team’,” Duncan said. “She had a friend whose daughter had joined the rowing team and loved it. So that put it in my mind, and then my older brother knew the head coxswain at the time. He said that they’re always looking for walk-ons, so I started to think about it more.”

Once classes started, Duncan attended informational meetings held at the start of the semester. She thought it wouldn’t hurt to give rowing a try, and if things went well, she still would be able to be a student-athlete with the discipline that entailed.

The two-week-long tryouts featured around 20 other students vying for a spot. Only 13 made the team, including Duncan. Despite trying a different sport for the first time, she found the learning curve manageable.

“You pick it up really fast because it’s the same stroke over and over again,” Duncan said. “If you are decently athletic, it’s not too hard to pick up, and rowing is based upon work ethic. If you’re putting in the time, your scores are going to drop, and I’ve always put in the time for basketball, so that part transitioned over.”

Duncan only saw two races, however, before the season was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite limited time with the team, an assistant coach called to tell her she was put on scholarship for the following season. Duncan went on to claim bronze at the Atlantic-10 championship and captured third place at the Dad Vail Regatta as a member of the second varsity eight, which propelled her into consideration for captain.

As a captain, Duncan preaches camaraderie and keeping a positive attitude at low points during the season. With only three races left before the Atlantic-10 championship on May 14, her motivational vision has shifted to ending her collegiate career on a high note.

“We have a strong group of girls,” said Duncan. “If we can find the right combination, we can definitely achieve our ultimate goal.”