Only three undergraduate alumni from Northwestern can say that they have competed in the Winter Olympic Games, and Maggie Crowley is one of them. In 2006 she traveled to Turin, Italy, to compete in the 3000–meter speed skating race, placing 22nd.
“Looking back I can only remember how fantastic the experience was,” said Crowley, 27. “But I know that it was really stressful at the time. I missed my friends and I wasn’t as close to the other speed skaters because I had to go to school.”
While she was training for the Olympics, Crowley missed three academic quarters during her freshman and sophomore years, including her freshman Winter Quarter and her Fall and Winter Quarter of sophomore year. A 2004 graduate of New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Ill., Crowley chose Northwestern to be close to home and her training. Nearly every day at around 1:30 p.m., her dad would pick her up from her room in Bobb and drive an hour and a half to Milwaukee, which has the closest covered long–track ice rink in the area. She would frequently return to campus at 9 p.m.
“The Olympics were more of a reward for my parents than it was for me because of all the time they sacrificed,” Crowley said. “It was a cool experience for me to go with my family and for them to be there and see my hard work pay off.”
Crowley was still able to have a somewhat regular college experience. During the time she took off her sophomore year, she came back for Greek recruitment, pledged the Delta Gamma sorority and traveled to the Olympics the week after.
“I had a boyfriend and I knew some of his friends but other than that I knew only a couple of people from my dorm freshman year. I knew I needed to make more girlfriends,” she said.
Upon her return, DG had hung a banner outside the house to congratulate her. Her mom threw a party for a few of her friends in Evanston.
“I still can’t believe it happened, it went by in a blur,” she said. “The opening ceremony, the outfits, the race – I even had a specific cameraman assigned to me at the ice rink and I was only 19 years old.”
After the Olympics, Crowley took a year off from training to decide if she wanted to keep skating. But because she enjoyed academics and wanted to pursue non–athletic professional interests, she decided it was time to leave the rink. With the aid of her AP credits, Crowley was able to graduate on time in 2008 with a major in economics and a minor in Slavic languages and literature. After college, she worked for four years doing consulting work at various firms. She now attends Harvard Business School.
“The Olympics opened doors for me,” she said. “It makes my resume stand out in a way it wouldn’t otherwise. People are curious.”
The balance between her two passions – school and skating – wasn’t easy, but Crowley said it was worth the struggle in the end.
“It’s a good feeling to look back and say ‘I did that, it was really tough but I made it,’” she said. “It was such a confidence booster.”