Already recognized in Keene State College's Alumni /Athletic Hall of Fame for his contribution to the 1985 men's cross country team, which finished third at the NCAA Championships, Rod Ellsworth has the honor of joining the Hall of Fame this evening as an individual inductee.
A member of the men's cross country and track programs from 1983 to 1987, Ellsworth has the distinction not only of earning seven All-America trophies, but also of becoming the first Keene State athlete to achieve the honor three times in one year, a feat he accomplished in the 1984-85 season. But while Rod Ellsworth's induction is about accomplishments, it is also about the individual drive and determination that allowed him to cross the finish line tonight and join the Hall of Fame.
Initially taking up running to get in shape for his Gilford High School basketball season, Ellsworth joined the school's cross country squad as a junior. After seeing the results of his labor on the trails, it wasn't long before he changed his sports allegiance.
Not intimidated by the strong stable of runners already at Keene State, Ellsworth gradually made his way up to the lead pack.
"Rod wasn't overly fast or strong, but just a gutty and determined runner," recalls Peter Thomas, Keene State's long-time cross country and track coach. "He was a pit bull who would tie into the lead pack and just hang on."
Ellsworth demonstrated that determination several times during his career. Overcoming a summer bout of mononucleosis, Ellsworth battled back to earn the first of his three All-America cross country awards during his sophomore season, taking 20th at the NCAA Division II Championships at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. The 1984-85 season turned out to be a triple crown year for Ellsworth, who would go on to gain All-America track honors in both indoor and outdoor 5,000-meter events.
Overcoming adversity the following year with the loss of top runner Tom Anderson to an injury, the Owls not only rallied to reach the NCAAs, but finished third - the best performance ever by a KSC cross country team. "Sick as a dog" a week prior to the meet, Ellsworth once again found the intestinal fortitude to make it to the finish line.
After claiming his fifth All-America plaque later that spring with a fourth-place performance in the 10,000-meter race at the outdoor track nationals, Ellsworth geared up for a great senior season. Keene State made its third consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships that fall. Although he wasn't able to hang on to a lead that he forged midway in the race, Ellsworth was able to bring home his third cross country All-America award. He ended his collegiate career in style that spring by taking fourth in the 10,000 at the outdoor championships.
"Looking back, I am certainly proud of my accomplishments at Keene State," said Ellsworth, who received his degree in technical education in 1987. "It's nice to be remembered as part of the team's tradition and history."
Presently residing in Southbury, Conn., with his wife, Trade, and three children. Rod Ellsworth is a teacher at the Chippen Hill School in Bristol, Conn.