By Greg Laudani
UNH Athletic Media Relations
DURHAM, N.H. – Perseverance separates good runners from great runners. Keely Maguire (Georgetown, Mass.) is the epitome of striving above obstacles in order to achieve greatness.
Maguire, a fifth-year senior on the University of New Hampshire women's cross country and track & field teams, recently wrapped up one of the best cross country seasons by a UNH runner in recent memory. Maguire captured the 2012 America East individual title on UNH's College Woods course and helped the Wildcats to a runner-up finish for the third-straight season. She went on to place 16th overall at the NCAA Regional meet and earned All-Region honors for the second time in as many seasons.
Lastly, Maguire took her talents to the ultimate test as she faced off against the best collegiate runners in the nation. She qualified for the NCAA National Championships by virtue of a regional at-large bid and placed 112th overall at the top meet, becoming the first member of the UNH women's cross country team to qualify for national championships since Cathy Parker made the trip in back-to-back seasons in 2006 and 2007.
Nevertheless, Maguire's stellar fall campaign did not come without years of hardship and subsequent determination, starting with an injury before even coming to Durham. During her senior year at Triton High School she was diagnosed with Compartment Syndrome, an exercise-induced and painful neuromuscular injury that caused swelling and pressure in both of her legs.
Maguire's injury lasted well into her freshman year at New Hampshire as she was forced to redshirt her rookie cross country season due to surgery, but the Massachusetts native rebounded on the track. Despite her injury, Maguire was named the America East Outdoor Track & Field Rookie of the Meet after a first-place finish in the 10,000-meter event. This highlight of success would be an indication of what a strong-minded athlete can accomplish.
Maguire's character was tested yet again the following cross country season when her sophomore campaign was hindered due to IT Band Syndrome. Distance runners are especially prone to the injury, which causes knee pain due to the inflammation of the IT band that stretches from the pelvis to the shin.
Despite a down year due to Maguire's injury, UNH women's cross country head coach Robert Hoppler believes her perseverance to run through an injury like IT Band Syndrome speaks volumes about character.
"She really struggled that season but she showed a high level of dedication to her teammates, to her running, and to running as well as she could in any circumstance that she was in," said Hoppler.
Heading into her final season this past summer, Maguire battled another set of injuries as she had Compartment Syndrome surgery for the second time in four years, a rarity even for distance runners. Despite the surgery, she came back earlier than expected and ran her first race of the season on Sept. 28 at the Paul Short Invitational. One month later, she won the America East Championship. Then on Nov. 9, four months to the day of the surgery, she qualified for the NCAA Championships.
"Reliving the season, I had to push to come back early and just be competitive. Looking back, it was like a dream," said Maguire, who went on to qualify for NCAA Championships one week later. "My goal was always to qualify for the Outdoor Track Championships, I never thought it would happen in cross country."
Maguire has made a remarkable story fighting through injuries, but those injuries never changed her willpower, just the final result. At her first conference championship as a sophomore, she placed 45th overall at the conference championships, followed by a fourth-place finish last season. Nothing could stop the healthy Maguire this season as she jumped up 44 spots to take the individual crown and can now call herself an America East champion.
"She has overcome injuries and obstacles that most people would retire for. Most people wouldn't still be running. And instead of just simply running, she is actually winning championships as well. It is pretty remarkable," said Hoppler.
Despite being the top individual runner in the America East Conference this season, Maguire and Hoppler credit the athletic training staff and the entire team for giving her the resources necessary to accomplish this feat.
"It is a team effort. She takes the efforts that her coaches, teammates, and doctors put in and has been able to capitalize on those efforts," said Hoppler. "A big piece of her success has to be attributed to the training room and the doctors as well. Our training staff has done a great job with Keely over the course of Keely's career here."
Maguire has made quite a name for herself at UNH, and the list of accomplishments is still growing as she heads into her final indoor and outdoor track seasons. The two-time conference track champion most recently qualified for the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field East Preliminary in the 10,000 meters for the second straight season. She also captured her second New England title last spring with a first-place finish in the 1,500 meters.
Her five years in Durham have been quite a journey, and she could not have done it without Hoppler, who she can count on for constructive criticism without risking her feelings.
"We have a great, mentoring relationship. There is always the ability to talk to him about training and theories instead of there just being one plan. We can definitely talk and philosophize about different aspects of running. So I have learned a lot from him," said Maguire.
Her coach's teachings and her own experiences have molded Maguire into an exemplary leader. As for Hoppler, he believes it comes down to commitment.
"Commitment. She is committed in terms of her training, being a great teammate, doing the best she can do as a student, and she is committed to being a fantastic captain," said Hoppler.
"I still want to qualify for nationals on the track this season, but after that, I will still be running," said Maguire. "Not sure exactly in what form, but I'll be running for a while."