Nov. 10, 2011
After losing the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association Singlehanded National Championship by one point last year, senior Annie Haeger was plagued with nightmares.
"Do you ever get those dreams when you know exactly when you messed up and know what you need to do to change?" she said, with a laugh. "I still have those. It's embarrassing to say, but it's definitely true. But you can't take it back. I've learned from it. I think this year I showed how much I was willing to put forth to prove that I have the determination to win."
After that heartbreaking loss to her close friend from Yale, Claire Dennis, Haeger began working even harder and spending more time in the Laser Radial. With the help of head coach Greg Wilkinson, the Lake Forest, Ill., native formulated a strategy based on what she learned from last year's loss, and she went into the regatta mentally prepared and without any doubts she could succeed.
After winning nine out of 15 races, Haeger recently walked away with her third national championship, tying Old Dominion graduate Anna Tunnicliffe's record and establishing herself as one of the most decorated women's skippers in collegiate sailing history.
"Just to have my name associated with [Anna's] is an amazing accomplishment," Haeger said. "She's a gold medalist; I want to be a gold medalist someday, and if I ever have as many accomplishments as she has, I would consider myself very lucky. I can't believe my name's associated with her's, and I hope to follow along in the same path that she did."
"I'm proud of her. I'm especially proud of this most recent win," Wilkinson said. "Annie did an awesome job executing the plan to the letter that we worked out and have been working on for a year, so to see it all come together was rewarding for me as a coach."
A three-time ISCA All-American and NEISA Singlehanded Conference Champion, Haeger was also named the ISCA Women's Sailor of the Year last year. She's competed on the more challenging international circuit since high school and earned a spot on the US Sailing Developmental team last year.
Don't forget the success she's had as a skipper competing against the boys on the coed sailing team, says Wilkinson. She made the NEISA All-Conference Coed Team two times and was second-team All-American for Coed Sailing in 2010.
"She likes to go out there and beat the boys," Wilkinson said.
Looking to the future, she hopes to add to this impressive list of accolades by capturing a few Olympic Gold medals.
"I've always had a dream of a gold medal ever since I was little," Haeger, who often acted out medal ceremonies with a friend growing up, explained. "Some kids want to be firefighters, and I just wanted a gold medal."
Pointing to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Haeger is hoping to compete in the 470 (a two-person boat) class with teammate and senior Briana Provancha. Despite her success in the Laser Radial class in college, she says that because of her small size, she would struggle to compete on the longer Olympic courses, where the speed advantage that heavier and taller skippers have outweighs tactical skill.
Wilkinson, who was part of the US National Team coaching staff for the XVI Pan American Games, also has a chance to travel to the Olympics as a coach.
"I would love that and I hope that happens," Haeger said. "It's a good possibility because he's such a good coach. He's taken people further than they ever thought that they could go, and I'd just be honored if he could come with us. Briana and I will take him."
When Haeger was asked about her accomplishments, she cited all of the people who helped her over the years, beginning with her father who got her started on the lake at their summer house in Wisconsin at eight.
"He's really been my support system throughout this whole thing, and he's really been behind me the whole way," she said of her father, who has been sailing his entire life and competes in local regattas in their home state of Illinois and throughout the Midwest.
She also noted the importance of teammates like Provancha and senior Emily Massa, who is her all-around crew at BC. Most of all, Haeger credited Wilkinson for pushing her to be the best sailor she could possibly be.
"He's taken me so far in my sailing; he's really helped me mentally," she said. "He's really helped me tactically, as well, which is a lot of being able to read the breeze. He's almost a life coach as well. He's more focused on the sailor rather than the team, which is really refreshing. He's just absolutely amazing; I'm so lucky to be able to work with him."
What makes Haeger such a special sailor, according to Wilkinson, is a combination of her drive, talent and her growth as a person.
"She's extremely driven and, over her years at BC, she's grown up a little bit," he explained. "Her drive became more calculating, and she became able to take that drive to formulate plans and then follow through with them. Coming in, she was a super talent, but I would say her drive and maturity are as big of factors."
After becoming one of the most decorated skippers in the history of collegiate sailing, it's clear that because of her passion, talent and experience, her career is far from over. The Olympic medal she's dreamed may be just on the horizon.
Written by Jen Dobias