Member Profile – Claire Hutcheson
Rower, runner, theater lover, activist, high school senior, soon-to-be international relations freshman—and winner of this year’s DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K Scholarship, awarded at the Team DC Night of Champions on April 14, 2018.
Meet Claire Hutcheson
Rowing is the most beautiful, relaxing thing to clear your mind.
Some of us discover our passions very early in life. For Claire Hutcheson, it wasn’t until her high school sophomore year that her sporting passion revealed itself. “I tried out for crew and fell in love with rowing so I decided to fully commit.” What was it about the sport that hooked her in? “Rowing is the most beautiful, relaxing thing to clear your mind. You’re on the river with forest all around you and a gorgeous sunrise,” she says.
But it was not Hutcheson’s first love nor the first sport she tried, she explains, a little of out of breath, having just finished an evening run around her native Fairfax, VA. “I was on the swim team since I was five but I was never really that good. I have also done theater my whole life,” she says. In fact, she first came out as gay to her theater friends during her freshman year at W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax: “They were super supportive. Theater is a very accepting place for the LGBT community,” she says. Hutcheson came out to her family about the same time and they were equally supportive. “Talking to other scholarship recipients at the Team DC dinner, I realized that my experience is not universal so I am really lucky.”
Although rowing is her passion, coming out to her teammates was not an entirely comfortable experience, she admits. “I loved the other rowers. They were great. But there is definitely a more conservative tone in the rowing community compared with my drama friends. It took me a whole year to slowly come out and it was very different experience.” While she did not get the same instant “overwhelming support” she got from her drama group, the girls on her crew team gradually became friends and made her feel included. She met her first girlfriend on the team. And a year after she joined, two or three other girls came out. It has not been all plain sailing—she notes some guys on the rowing team “are a lot less accepting”—but overall her experience has been positive.
Hutcheson learned about the Team DC Student Athlete Scholarship Program through the Human Rights Organization website, which has a list of LGBT-oriented college scholarships. “I always keep tabs on the HRC website. When I read about this I thought it fit perfectly.” The scholarship is given out through a competitive process that includes writing an essay where applicants chart their personal journey as a gay athlete. She says of the night she received her award at the Team DC gala: “I had no idea there was this enormous community of LGBT athletes out there and I never felt so supported and included.”
This fall, Hutcheson opens a new chapter in her young life when she arrives at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in international relations. The course she chose will be a blend of economics, government, and history. Hutcheson has already done a lot of student activism, is interested in state government, and has done an internship in Congress so this seemed like a natural fit, she says. Asked how she plans to use the Pride Run scholarship ($2,000), she says: “It will hands-down cover all my books for all four years, which is a big relief because that’s an expense you don’t think about that much when you’re budgeting.”
She hopes to join the rowing team at William and Mary but that depends on her body cooperating. Hutcheson has had to take a break from rowing recently after injuring her knee. This hiatus had one upside, however: she has gotten into running. “I like it. After thirty minutes, I feel better about myself,” she says, adding she is considering doing the Pride Run on June 8.
But there is no doubt what Hutcheson’s primary passion is. “I love rowing. The teammates, the friendship. Stuck on a boat for three hours a day, six days a week, you’re working and sweating together. You all have the same goals. You can’t recreate that kind of bond.” Rowing gives her a particular high that other sports don’t match, she says: “We use this term ‘the run.’ It describes what happens when everyone on the boat is moving in perfect sync, everything is flowing really well. It’s just one of the best feelings in the world. It’s a real rush.”
Interview by Brian Beary, April 2018
DCFR PRIDE RUN 5K SCHOLARSHIP
The DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K Scholarship is one of several awarded each year by Team DC, the umbrella organization for gay sports clubs in the Washington DC area. The scholarship is awarded to a self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) student-athlete who has made a contribution to the sport(s) he or she is a part of and, as a result of his or her contributions and involvement, has enhanced the perception of the LGBT community. Awards are made to graduating high school seniors in the Washington, DC area who will be attending a fully accredited two or four-year college or university. To learn more, click here or email [email protected]
To donate to one of our Pride Run charities, visit www.dcfrpriderun.com