Dayton native gets spot on U.S. Olympic rowing team

DAYTON — Many young athletes dream of making it to the Olympics.

Most do not.

It’s a long hard road to get there and few people know that better than Molly Bruggeman.

After years of hard work and training, a Dayton native has just been named to the U.S. Olympic Rowing team.

For several hours a day, you will find Molly Bruggeman rowing.

The third of Mike and Beth Bruggeman’s four kids, she played all the usual sports but didn’t quite excel.

“If you’d have asked me back then which one of my kids would grow up to be an elite athlete...’well, it’s not gonna be Molly,’” Mike said.

But at 13, she tried rowing with Coach Mike Miles and the Dayton Boat Club and took to it — well, like a duck to water.

She rowed all four years at Chaminade-julienne High School.

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Then, she earned a rowing scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, her dad’s alma mater.

“I was a three-time all-American. I rowed every summer as well with the under-23 national team,” Molly said.

After graduating in 2014, she moved to Princeton, New Jersey where she continues training today.

Competition with the U.S. National Team has taken her all over the world.

“We’ve raced in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Italy, Austria, England,” Molly said.

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She’s twice won gold at the Pan American Games, but the Olympics has twice eluded her.

“I was cut from Rio. I was a spare in Tokyo,” she said.

Her mom says that disappointment was so deep, that Molly left the program to coach, but she encouraged her to try a third time.

“I think she would have regretted it if she stopped and never tried again, and I’m so glad she did,” Beth said.

She learned she’d made the 2024 Olympic team.

“I don’t even think I can really put a finger on what I felt,” Molly said.

The first call she made was to her biggest fans.

“He immediately starts to cry and then she’s crying and makes me start to cry,” Beth recalled.

They’ll be in Paris to see their daughter compete, and hopefully end up on the medal stand.

Molly said for now she is focused on the Olympics but hopes she can spend time with her family afterward.

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