Freshman coxswain inspires Drexel rowers

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Dad Vail Regatta is bringing hundreds of college rowers to the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.

But none will have a profile packed with more courage than Kerry Walsh of Pennsauken, New Jersey.

"She is an inspiration to the whole team," says Paul Savell.

That's how Drexel University Crew Coach Paul Savell describes Kerry Walsh, the 5.2", freshman dynamo who will be coxswain for the women's Varsity Eight when they compete on the Schuylkill this weekend.

It is unusual for a freshman to cox for a D-1 Varsity team, but Walsh is a young woman who has spent much of her life beating the odds, and not just on the river.

"When I was 11, the summer between 5th and 6th grade, I was diagnosed with Leukemia," said Kerry.

Before her diagnosis, Walsh had been an athlete and dancer, but she was sidelined by her treatments and then a severe infection, which nearly killed her.

She surprised doctors when she was able to walk out of the ICU at Children's Hospital after four months.

But then, just before her freshman year in high school, she developed Avascular Necrosis, which destroyed her hip joints, and left her dependent on crutches or a wheelchair.

Her sister, who was a rower, suggested a way Kerry could get back into sports.

"She said, 'oh well coxswains don't have to use their legs very much, so you could probably do that,'" Kerry said.

Before her junior year, Kerry had a double hip replacement, and as soon as she was able, she was back on the river motivating everyone on her team.

"I always knew that I was going to get better," said Kerry.

"She's a fighter," said Coach Savell," and that comes through from the inside."

6abc will be covering the Dad Vail Regatta live beginning at 1:00pm on Saturday.

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