Nine olympians, one connection

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Kathryn Allyn '17

Nine alumnae of the Sacred Heart schools represented the United States, Canada, Australia, and Mexico in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during the 2016 summer Olympic Games. The alumnae included seven athletes and two coaches who not only competed for their country of origin, but their respective Sacred Heart schools as well.
Gold medalist Ms. Katie Ledecky ’15 graduated from the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland. She currently attends Stanford University and competed in her second consecutive Olympic Games this summer.
At the age of 15, Ms. Ledecky was the youngest swimmer to participate in the 2012 London Olympic Games and won her first gold medal in the 800 meter freestyle race, breaking Mrs. Janet Evans’ 1989 American world record, according to stoneridgeschool.com
Now, at the age of 19, Ms. Ledecky was again the youngest swimmer at the 2016 Rio Games and competed in five freestyle events, placing in all races. Ms. Ledecky won gold medals in the women’s 400 meter freestyle and the women’s 800 meter freestyle, breaking world records in the two events.
Many Convent of the Sacred Heart students tuned in to support the Olympian alumna.
“When I first saw Katie Ledecky swim in her first heat of the swim race, I was amazed as to how incredible of a swimmer she was. When I found out that she graduated from one of our sister schools, I instantly became more excited for her and more interested in the women’s freestyle events,” senior Rebecca Grady said.
Ms. Ledecky placed first in the women’s 200 meter freestyle and the women’s 4×200 meter freestyle relay. She also received a silver medal in the 4x100m meter freestyle relay alongside Ms. Lia Neal ’13 from Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York, New York.

Kathryn Allyn '17
Kathryn Allyn ’17

In addition to the summer 2016 Games, Ms. Neal competed in the women’s 4×100 meter freestyle race in the 2012 London Olympic Games at the age of 17, according to swimswam.com. Now a junior at Stanford University, Ms. Neal will compete for Stanford’s Division I women’s Swimming and Diving team with Ms. Ledecky.
Another aquatic Olympian is Ms. Caroline “KK” Clark ’08, who attended Sacred Heart Preparatory School in Atherton, California. Ms. Clark and her teammates from the United States women’s Senior National Water Polo team won the women’s water polo tournament’s final match against Italy with a score of 12 to five, according to teamusa.org.
A member of the Senior National Team since 2013, Ms. Clark was the first Sacred Heart alumna to compete in the Olympic Games for the women’s water polo event.
Ms. Erin Rafuse ’16, a “lifer” at Sacred Heart School of Halifax, Nova Scotia (NS), Canada, also competed in her first Olympic Games in the women’s double handed skiff – 49erFX sailing race and placed sixteenth overall, according to sacredhearthfx.com.
“As a sailor myself, I was fascinated to see the success of Erin Rafuse in her sailing race. Everyone in the Sacred Heart community was cheering for our alumnae not only because they are our sisters, but because they are exceptional athletes,” senior Haley Horn said.
Another Sacred Heart Olympic athlete was Anabelle Smith ’11 from Sacré Coeur in Melbourne, Australia. Competing in her second Games, Smith had debuted her talents in the 2012 Olympic Games at 19 years old, finishing fifth in the women’s synchronized three meter springboard event, according to rio2016.olympics.com.
This summer, Smith competed in the same event and finished third overall.
Ms. Gaby Lopez ’12, a Sacred Heart alumna from Colegio Sagrado Corazon in Mexico City, also debuted in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Ms. López competed in the individual event for women’s golf, placing 36 out of 60 competitors. She shot an overall score of 72, according to rscj.org.
The last alumna who competed this summer was Ms. Gabi Nance ’13 from the Stuartholme School in Brisbane, Australia. Ms. Nance participated in the women’s field hockey event and made it to the quarter finals with her team, but lost to New Zealand with a score of two to four at the end of the match, according to rscj.org
Two other alumnae of the Society of the Sacred Heart, Ms. Joe Fernandez and Ms. Denise Sheldon, took their talents off the court and used their skills as mentors in this summer’s Olympic Games.
Ms. Mary Joe Fernandez, a former professional tennis player who attended the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami, Florida, was the coach for the US women’s tennis team and the women’s Olympic tennis team this summer, according to rscj.org.
Ms. Sheldon, from the St. Joesph’s and Sacred Heart Preparatory School in Atherton, California, served as the Head of Delegation for the USA volleyball team and was the manager of its high performance program, according to rscj.org.
Captain of the Sacred Heart varsity volleyball team senior Jenna Whalen eagerly watched the women’s volleyball event.
“It’s amazing to watch these athletes compete in the Olympics, and its even more incredible to know that a Sacred Heart alumnae is involved with the success of the event,” Jenna said.
– Kathryn Allyn, Staff Writer