Three Owls Win LEC Track Honors
KEENE, N.H., 6/8/09 - Keene State’s Allison Chamberlain was surprised to hear she was named the Little East Conference Women’s Outdoor Track Runner of the Year on Monday. But that doesn’t come close to the emotion the sophomore from Scarborough, Maine, went through after her mandatory physical prior to enrolling at KSC this winter.
“It was just a random physical that all transferring athletes have to take,” said Chamberlain, who was coming to Keene State after competing at the University of Vermont as a freshman.
But there was nothing random about her results. After detecting a heart murmur during an EKG exam, doctors ordered additional tests and, after an ultrasound, found a half-inch hole in her heart. They recommended surgery. “I was shocked,” said Chamberlain. “I never had any problems running.”
Undaunted by the sudden setback, Chamberlain was walking two weeks after the operation and back running with her Owl teammates four weeks later. “There are many people who have this problem and don’t realize it until they have a heart attack or other issues later in their lives,” said Chamberlain. “The doctors told me if I didn’t have the surgery, I would’ve had a shorter life span.”
Chamberlain’s running career picked up speed when she reached Scarborough High. “I competed in seventh grade, but it wasn’t until high school that I really got into it,” she said. A top quarter-miler for the Red Storm, Chamberlain was a 400-meter and multiple relay state champion on a Scarborough High team that captured consecutive indoor and outdoor crowns.
Following her graduation, Chamberlain packed up her running shoes and headed for UVM, where she was a member of the Catamounts’ 4x800 relay squad, which were runner-ups at the American East Championship. A desire to major in architecture and to continue her running career brought her to Keene State.
Chamberlain is the second-straight Owl runner to be tabbed as the top track athlete in the conference, joining Jennifer Adams. Primarily competing in the 800-meter race, Chamberlain earned a place on the podium at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Championships with a third- place time of 2:14.84. Chamberlain turned in a personal best in the 800-meter at the New England Open Championships by crossing the finish line at 2:14.49. Her sixth-place finish at the New England Division III Championships earned her All-New England honors. Earlier in the campaign, she won the Little East Conference Championship and placed second in the New England Alliance field.
“Allison was a great addition to the program,” said KSC Coach Peter Thomas. “She has two more years with us, and I’m expecting bigger and better things from her.”
So is Chamberlain. “I’d like to take down the school record in the 800 (2:10.65) and qualify for the indoor and outdoor nationals,” she said.
The sophomore won’t be lacking motivation. “Every time I step on the track, I will be thinking about how lucky I am to be able to run,” Chamberlain said. “I don’t know how I would react if track was taken away from me.”
The Little East Conference also announced that Keene State senior Peter Najem (Derry, N.H.) was named the Track Athlete of the Year, and teammate sophomore Bryan Kolacz (Brentwood, N.H.) was selected as the Field Athlete of the Year.
Najem advanced to the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships for the first time in his career, qualifying for the 800-meter race. The Derry, N.H., product covered the course in a time of 1:52.18 to place third in his heat, but narrowly missed advancing to the finals. Najem lowered the Owls’ standard in the 800 and posted an NCAA provisional qualifying time at the New England Open Championships with his fifth-place - first Division III runner - result (1:51.81). He captured the 800-meter titles at the New England Division III, New England Alliance, and Little East Conference Championships, while finishing seventh at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III meet.
“The awards means a lot to me,” said Najem, “I thank Peter [Thomas] for sticking with me during my first three years. Earning All-American [indoors] ensures that I will be part of Keene State’s track legacy.”
Kolacz became the 10th Keene State College student-athlete in men’s track and field to capture a national championship, breaking the Don Drumm Stadium and school record by throwing the hammer 61.48 meters at the 2009 NCAA Division III Championships hosted by Marietta College (Ohio). The All-American honoree is the first field athlete in the program’s history to stand atop the national podium since Paul Trocki won the decathlon in 1979. The Brentwood, N.H., native entered the field as the top-seeded thrower in the hammer after setting the national standard at the New England Open Championship (1st, 60.17 m). Kolacz swept each of the post-season meets he entered in the hammer throw, adding the ECAC, New England Division III, New England Alliance, and Little East Conference Championship titles to his mantle. He was also named the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Association New England Field Athlete of the Year. Kolacz was voted the 2008 Rookie Field Athlete of the Year by the conference coaches.
“Bryan owned the hammer throw event in New England this spring, but he’s the type of athlete that won’t rest on his laurels” said Thomas. “I always look forward to getting this honor,” said Kolacz. “I knew it would come down to me and James Spaulding from Southern Maine. Since he’s a decathlon athlete and I do the hammer, this is the only way for me to beat him.”