Claire Collins, a Washington Episcopal School alumna and Olympic rower, speaks to students on Friday. Credit: Photos courtesy Washington Episcopal School

Washington Episcopal School’s first-ever Olympic alumna returned to the school on Friday with a message for students: “Dream big, because I was just like you.”

Claire Collins helped propel the U.S. women’s rowing team to a seventh-place finish in the women’s four event this summer at the Tokyo Olympics.

She returned to her former elementary and middle school in Bethesda to talk about the importance of setting big goals, being a good teammate and friend, and having fun.

On Friday, she shared stories about her time at Washington Episcopal and how her school career helped prepare her to “chase my dreams” at the Olympics. The visit was captured on video and shared with Bethesda Beat.

In fifth through eighth grade at Washington Episcopal, Collins played soccer, basketball and lacrosse, as well as the violin and trumpet.

She attended high school at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, where she was on the rowing, volleyball and swim teams before attending college at Princeton University. She graduated in 2019 with a degree in economics.

Washington Episcopal students listen as Claire Collins speaks at the school on Friday.

Collins encouraged students to listen to their teachers, be kind to their classmates and always be willing to try new activities.

She said her favorite part of the Olympics was meeting people from all around the world, and the food was “really good.”

Collins said she is training for the 2024 Olympic Games.


“I don’t have a medal to show you, but I will have one in three years,” she said.

During a question-and-answer session, students asked Collins a barrage of questions, including if she has ever felt like quitting (no), what Tokyo was like (hot), and how much training she does every day (about six to seven hours).

Bill Isola, Washington Episcopal’s athletic director, said nobody was surprised when they learned Collins was going to the Olympics.


“Of course she made it to the Olympics,” he said. “Where else would she be?”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at