Next weekend is Homecoming at the University of New Hampshire, a time for alumni to celebrate their alma mater and for the university to welcome back its graduates. That's why this is as good a time as any to salute a select group of UNH alums, former Wildcat runners who have excelled at New Hampshire road races.
For decades, UNH runners have been amongst the best the New Hampshire, and beyond, road race/triathlon scene has witnessed.
It is no accident that former UNH runners have excelled upon graduation. In recent conversations with current UNH track and field/cross country coaches Jim Boulanger, Rober Hopler, and Casey Carroll the trio all talked about encouraging their runners to continue the craft upon graduation.
A walk through the UNH field house indicates the message has been received. On the walls of the field house are photos of various UNH teams through the decades. The photos of the past few decades' cross country teams reveals a "who's who" of some of the best runners in the Granite State.
Starting in the 1970s, familiar names like Bruce Butterworth and Dean Kimball are seen posing as UNH runners. Butterworth has become one of the most decorated triathletes in New Hampshire while Kimball became a dominant figure on New Hampshire roads. In the early 80s, the list included Guy Stearns, who currently holds a number of New Hampshire road race records and was once one of the best road races in the country.
In the 1990s, the New Hampshire and New England road race calendar expanded giving more UNH runners a chance to excel and they took advantage of the opportunity. Two former UNH runners made particular headlines, the Beauley brothers, Dave and Dan. In 1994 and 1996, Dave was the top New Hampshire male at the Boston Marathon. In 1997, Dan traveled thousands of miles from the Durham campus and won the Midnight Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska.
The floodgates opened in the 2000s. Alan Bernier won three races in one day (2001), Andrew Van Hogenstein won two of the Seacoast region's biggest events, the Runner's Alley/Red Hook 5K and the Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon, and Peter Hammer won the Jim Kane Sugar Bowl Five Miler in Boston three years in a row. Anyone familiar with the results of the past few years of New Hampshire road races will recognize the names of many former UNH runners who have dominated the local results.
The achievements go beyond typical New Hampshire road races. In the White Mountain region of the state Kevin Tilton has become one of the top mountain runners in the area. As stated Butterworth has been an outstanding triathlete, most recently winning the Marshmellow Man triathlon this past summer (at age 60). Peter Mallet was named New Hampshire triathlete a few years ago and Matt Russell was second at this year's Ironman Canada and also won the Pumpkinman Half Iron race.
Then there are the women. As the popularity of the sport increased with women. so did the number of wins by former UNH runners. Denise Sandahl and Stephanie Burnham, are two of the women who have brought pride to their former school with wins at New Hampshire races. Erica Jesseman, who returned to her home in Maine after graduating UNH in 2012, has become Maine's top middle distance female. Keeley Maguire graduated this past May and posted three wins within one month.
How about men and women runners teaming up? That's exactly what Mark and Amy Gostyzla did when they won the Red's Race For a Better Community in 2008 and what Dan and Lesley Hocking did when the won the St. Charles Children's Home 5K in 2011. Both Hockings have also had the honor of being named New Hampshire Runner of the Year by various publications. One reason for Dan receiving that honor was his winning the 2012 New England 5K championship.
Perhaps the most notable accomplishment was turned in by Megan Hepp. In 2008, Hepp ran the Women's Olympic Marathon trials and finished 12th. On the other hand you have to give it to Mary Garrity. Garrity has returned for Homecoming Weekend and won the UNH Homecoming 5K six of the last seven years.
There are more names, as the cliché goes, too many to mention. New Hampshire races, large and small, have been been dotted with the names of former UNH runners who won, finished in the top three, or won their age groups.
According to Boulanger, the mission of the UNH cross country/track and field program is to "make them the best collegiate runners possible" and leave room for continued excellence upon graduation.
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Running shorts : Heavy rain and winds created a unique situation at the Wallis Sands triathlon on Sept. 22. The swim had to be canceled and the race became a duathlon (run/bike/run). Lucas Pozzetta of Merrimack and Sarah Wilson of Nashua were the winners. ... Claremont's Justin Montgomery is becoming a dominant marathon runner in New Hampshire. After winning last year's Smuttnose Rockfest Marathon Montgomery he won the Clarence Demar Marathon in Keene on Sept. 29. Missouri's Talva Parker was the women's winner. Speaking of Clarence Demar, the race had 410 finishers, one of the largest turnouts in the event's history. ... If you like 10Ks then head to Concord on Oct. 12 for the Capital City Ironheart 10K.
Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at email@example.com.