|Hometown:||New Ipswich, NH|
Under the direction of long-time coach Peter Thomas, a former Owl runner, Keene State College is recognized for producing some of the top men’s and women’s cross country and track athletes at the league, regional, and national level.
Now in his 29th season, Thomas, the recipient of multiple coach-of-the-year honors at both the Division II and III level, including LEC men's and women's cross country coach of the year awards in 2010, is looking forward to another productive year on the trails and track for his highly-successful program that has developed a combined 48 cross country and 105 track All-Americas, including one cross country and 18 track national champions.
In 2010, the KSC men’s cross country team placed third at the New England regional meet and earned its first NCAA berth since 2005. He has led the Owl men's team to a combined 16 NCAA championship berths, including nine consecutive trips (1997-2005) as a Division III member. His 1999 and 2000 teams were national runner-ups. KSC has also captured 10 Little East titles and four (1999-2002) New England regional crowns.
Thomas led the KSC women’s cross country team to its 11th consecutive LEC championship last fall and had a runner earn an at-large berth to the nationals. The Owls finished fifth regionally and made their inaugural NCAA appearance in 2006.
Last fall, Paige Mills raced to her second consecutive All-America honor and was named the LEC women's cross country runner of the year.
Having earned a reputation as one of the top cross country coaches in Division III, Coach Thomas has now set his sights on developing a well-rounded and competitive track and field program at Keene State. He took a major step in that direction in 2002-03 by directing Mary Proulx and Mark Miller to their fifth and fourth national championships, respectively. The Keene State women have had a pair of fourth place finishes at the NCAA championship, indoors in 2006 and outdoors in 2008.
Keene State has continued to add to its list of All-America in recent years. This winter, Janel Haggerty became the Owls first national champion in the pentathlon, Ryan Widzgowski placed second inn the mile and Maggie Fitter was fourth in the 800-meter race.
Last spring three Owl athletes qualified for the NCAA championships with Glenn Guilmette earning his second straight All-American honor in the javelin. In addition, Janel Haggerty was named the Little East women's indoor field athlete of the year and Guilmette was slected as the men's outdoor field athlete of the year by the conference.
In 2009, Keene State produced three track All-Americas, including Bryan Kolacz, the national champion in the hammer throw. Last season, the Owls produced five All-Americas with Kolacz finishing sixth and third respectively in the weight throw and hammer, Allison Chamberlain raced to second place finish in the 800, and Peter Najem doubled up in the 800 (7th) and 1,500 (8th).
Needless to say, Coach Thomas, a New Ipswich, N.H., native has high hopes for both programs this year.
|Title:||Assistant Head Coach|
A former standout cross country and track runner for the Owls, Peter Najem begins his first full season as an assistant coach with the Keene State running program this year.
A two-time All-LEC cross country runner for the Owls, Najem made a name for himself competing in mid-distance races for the Keene State track team as a three-time All-America. He earned All-America honors with his fourth place finish in the 800-meter event at the 2008 NCAA Indoor championship. He was also was a four-time All-Division New England, a two-time New England Open and a three-time All-LEC indoor runner for the Owls.
Najem also excelled during the outdoor season. As a senior, he raced to All-America with his seventh place finish in the 800 and eighth place effort in the 1,000 at the NCAA championships. He also won the 800 event at the New England Division III and Little East meets. He capped his career by earning LEC outdoor track athlete of the year honors.
He still holds the Owl records in the 600 (1:12.97) and 800 (1:50.08) indoors and the 800 make outdoors with a time of 1:50.79.
"I’ve been to the nationals, so I can relate to the runners and try to get them there," said Najem. "I think I can be a role model for the athletes as someone who worked hard and developed during my four years with the program."