KST Cover

The Benson Family Team

Three athletic kids times three varsity KSC teams equals a lot of miles on the odometer for the Benson family.

by Stuart Kaufman

Samantha, Riley, and Jackie Benson photo. Samantha, Riley, and Jackie Benson

It was another busy spring sports season for Jeff and Nancy Benson of Hampstead, New Hampshire. Several times every week, they made the all-too-familiar trip to Keene or traveled to various lacrosse locales around New England to watch their son Riley '10 and daughter Samantha play for Keene State College. If both Riley and Samantha had games on the same day, Jeff and Nancy split up, each going to a different contest.

Last fall, they traveled the same paths to watch Samantha's twin sister, Jackie, play for the Keene State field hockey team. "You can count on one hand the number of games we've missed in the past five years," said Nancy, who also makes the cross-state trek for other occasions, including birthdays. "I wouldn't trade it for anything. I'm so proud of them."

At the age of three, Samantha and Jackie were already racing around the field with miniature field hockey sticks while their mother coached a middle school team.

The three Benson offspring have thrived in their respective sports at Keene State. Riley, an elementary education major, was a mainstay at midfield for the men's lacrosse team the past two seasons, while Samantha and Jackie, both sophomores, have utilized their speed and stick skills to become key contributors to their Owl teams.

While their sports might be different, the Benson bunch has much in common. When asked about the Benson on their team, each coach is quick to point out their respective player's athletic talents and the work ethic that each brings to the field.

"Riley did all the intangibles that helped us win," said men's lacrosse coach Mark Theriault. "He has a great attitude, and that earned him the role of captain this year."

"Jackie has a nose for the goal and is one of the best finishers we have," said Amy Watson, the field hockey coach. "We use her coming off the bench because she gives us such a spark."

"Sammy is one of those players you put out there knowing she will give you everything she's got," said women's lacrosse coach Katie Arsenault. "It's a trait of all the Bensons. You get raised that way and that's how you play."

The Benson siblings, including an older brother, Ryan, come from strong athletic stock. Both Jeff and Nancy were standout athletes who starred at Plymouth State, Jeff at lacrosse and Nancy at field hockey and lacrosse. As one might expect, sports was a big part of their children's upbringing.

"We grew up around sports. It was pretty much second nature," said Riley. At the age of three, Samantha and Jackie were already racing around the field with miniature field hockey sticks while their mother coached a middle school team. At Pinkerton Academy, Riley was an All-State soccer player and a member of the school's top-notch lacrosse program. Samantha played lacrosse and soccer before joining Jackie on the Pinkerton field hockey team.

After high school, Riley joined a flood of Pinkerton players who ventured west to join the Owl lacrosse team. Admittedly swayed by their brother's pleasant experience at KSC, Samantha and Jackie became converts two years later.

All three Bensons have been members of successful and historic teams at Keene State. As a freshman, Jackie, a LEC All-Star last fall, helped the Owls capture their fifth consecutive LEC field hockey championship. In lacrosse, Riley, nicknamed "Scooter" because of his speed, was on the 2007 men's team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament and finished the season ranked 17th in the country. Samantha helped the Owls hoist their first LEC women's lacrosse championship banner last spring.