The Stonehill men’s team won the east region and were ranked 20th in the nation heading into the NCAA Div II cross country national championships. The race was in Spokane, WA, which, for the geographically challenged, is a long way from home. Traveling across the continent at any time can be hairy but when you add in the stresses involved in the target race at the end of a long season and it’s safe to say that surprises aren’t exactly welcome.

Man, if only this was about the team running well at nationals. Instead, some colossal pricks actually broke into the van and stole just about all the men’s team’s gear while they were out for a run. It was shocking to hear the news and even now a few days later it still seems a bit surreal. Who could possibly be that evil?

We reached out to Skyhawks coach Karen Boen to get her take on what happened:

It was quite an ordeal and not what we were expecting.  Our wallets, cell phones, bags, warm ups, etc. were taken along with video equipment and some racing shoes. Overall we lost about $5000.00 worth of items and hours of canceling cards and replacing drivers licenses.

The guys had already had a turbulent year dealing with two of our top guys out for the season and then a bronchial infection that hit each of them at different times.  This was just another barrier in our way.  They dealt with it with dignity and did their best to stay focused.  Our athletic and police department worked diligently to get us through security at the airport and we made it home with a memory we would have traded for a better race.

We won both conference and regional championships but just ran out of gas at nationals. This event certainly didn’t help but we will go back to work and put it all behind us.

After what sounded like quite the rough year, the team still cleaned up at conference and regionals. There was just one more test waiting for them on the big stage. Despite the theft and the frustration that came with it, Karen had those men ready to roll. From a recap on the Stonehill website:

Senior Scott Waller (Andover, Mass./Andover) was the first Stonehill student-athlete to complete today’s ten kilometer course, placing 96th overall in 32:12.10. Waller was able to top both of his finishes in past NCAA Championships, as he placed 141st as a sophomore in 2011 and 124th as a freshman in 2010.

Unfortunately it wasn’t their day, and they finished in 28th place out of 32 teams. That was a few spots lower than their pre-race ranking, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. They showed their grit and tenacity and finished what they started.

With so many local teams and runners competing at nationals across all three divisions, we’d love to be able to just focus on the positive and provide updates on performances. It’s hard to not share like this, a story that show an already tried team that was further tested and didn’t wilt in the face of unexpected, awful circumstance at a pretty terrible time.

Not to be overlooked, but the Stonehill women’s team was in Spokane, too (and also ranked 20th going in). Their top runner proved to be one of the best in the country (from the Stonehill website):

Senior captain Chelsea Bishop (Suffield, Conn./Suffield) became the fifth All-American in program history, as she finished 36th overall and first among the seven Stonehill participants in 21:47.3. Bishop has competed in six races this season, and each time she has been Stonehill’s top finisher.

The Skyhawk women finished 25th out of the 32 teams. Having an All-American finisher sure helped to put a bright spot on a trip that had been tainted by the unfortunate circumstances. No doubt that Karen Boen, the 2013 Northeast-10 and East Region Coach of the Year, will have her runners ready to go for indoor and beyond.


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