Sister, Sister

Jackie & Molly Hanna

Rower Jackie Hanna will face her twin sister at the Patriot League Championship.

By Kelsey Horton
Special to

Imagine you are rowing for your team's varsity eight for the Patriot League championship. You are at the beginning of the course, anxiously waiting for the start gun to go off. Out of your peripherals you see Navy's boat. They placed third last year in the Championships, your boat trailed in fourth. This alone would have your heart racing. Now imagine, that Navy wasn't just your competition. In fact, the rower in their bow seat has been your biggest competitor since birth. How is that possible? Well, you are about to race your twin sister.

This is what is going to happen for sophomore rower Jackie Hanna (Annapolis, Md.) on May 17 on Lake Quinsigamond. Her and her twin sister Molly will be competing for their respective varsity eight teams, both rowing in the bow seat.

"It's funny because it really shows how similar we are in skill and ability," said Jackie. "In high school, we usually rowed as a pair, so one of us would either be in front or behind the other one which worked out well. We never competed for the same seat, but we were always very competitive outside the boat when we compared erg scores."

When it was time to think about college they struggled with the decision of whether or not to go to the same school.  Growing up only a few miles away from the Naval Academy had an impact on their college search. "We have always been around the Naval Academy and it was always on our lists of prospective schools," said Jackie. "We visited Holy Cross together and both really loved it. I knew after the visit that it was where I wanted to go but the Naval Academy was always number one for Molly." Although they chose different life paths Jackie shows nothing but support. "I have so much admiration for what she does at the Naval Academy, and though our college experiences are very different, we know we made the right decisions in the end."

While their college experience may be very different, rowing is certainly one thing that they are able to share. "Because we both know what the other is going through we are able to support and encourage one another to do our best," said Jackie. She adds that the healthy competition between her and her sister has made her a better rower.  "Molly has always been a bit faster than me on the erg," Jackie admits. "That just motivates me to keep pushing myself to be better, and beat her."

It goes without saying that Navy's Molly Hanna is used to experiencing some extreme competition as she attends the top naval institution in the country. Yet, she describes rowing against her twin as one of the most intense experiences she has faced. "Looking over and seeing your sister in the boat next to you, someone you know better than anyone else and feel so connected to but now are pitted against, in that moment takes the pre-race hype to a new level," she said. "You know how hard she has worked and that she has the same exact goal as you: to win." Molly adds that "flipping the switch" is easy. "We put aside wins and losses and go back to being normal sisters and each other's biggest supporters."

"At the end of the day, although we are rivals, we don't let that get in the way of our friendship," said Jackie. "I'm always rooting for her and she's always rooting for me. If Holy Cross can't win I choose Navy to win, every time."