Two former Keene State College athletes are set to join the coaching staffs for their respective sports.
Peter Najem will join the men’s cross country team as assistant coach, and Kerry Howe will provide a defensive minded approach as an assistant coach to the women’s field hockey team. Najem, now 26, graduated in 2010. In his time at KSC, Najem was a standout cross country and track runner; he is a two-time All-LEC cross country runner and a three-time All-American. Najem currently holds the record at KSC for the indoor 600 and 800, as well as the outdoor 800.
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After graduation Najem moved to Syracuse, N.Y. to train professionally until he hurt his Achilles tendon and decided to move back to Keene. In 2010 Najem was the first KSC runner to compete in the USA National Indoor Track Championships. He competed again in 2012 at the same event with a Nike sponsorship.
“It was a great experience. I would have liked to do a little better, going in I knew I wasn’t going to make much noise,” Najem said. “But there was a possibility I could have done something.” In order to keep the Nike sponsorship, Najem said he had to be living in Syracuse and training with the team up there, but he decided against it.
“It wasn’t really as tough of a decision as you would think. I wasn’t keeping myself satisfied up there with no family around so coming back wasn’t hard. There are a lot of clubs in New England to join and I can always train with the guys at KSC,” Najem said.
Najem will bring a fresh face to the coaching staff that a few of the runners are already familiar with.
“I am someone they can relate too really, only being out of college for two years. Some of the guys were freshmen when I was a senior so I can kind of bridge that generation gap they might have,” Najem said. “For me when I came here I looked at the All-American list and there’s so many of them you just want to be on that list. Me being here, they can see me on that list and ask me questions on how I did it.”
Peter Thomas, who coached Najem during his stint at KSC, thinks highly of him.
“My coaching style was that I could part wisdom on the run when people started to struggle, so I am hoping Pete could do the same sort of thing,” Thomas said.
The familiar faces rolling in do not stop there though. Kerry Howe, only a year removed from the team, will begin her coaching career as an assistant coach for the women’s field hockey team. Howe graduated last year when she was named the LEC Defensive Player of the Year and helped the team win the LEC Championship. Howe was a four-year player for the team and head coach Amy Watson said she was recruited out of high school and came in as a strong freshman in her class.
“She had most of her experience in the midfield in high school and club play, but once we got her on board, we decided she’d make a better defender for us,” Watson said. She certainly proved the coaches right after being honored with the LEC Defensive Player of the Year Award and helping the team win the LEC Championship last year.
After graduating last year, Howe said she was trying to figure out what she was going to do, but that she wasn’t ready to be done with KSC field hockey quite yet.
“I knew I didn’t want to find a really serious job right away, so I was kind of thinking where I wanted to be instead of what I wanted to do,” Howe said. “I contacted Amy Watson and asked her if she had anything lined up, and they said they would love to have me.”
Watson thought if Howe could stick around for one more season, then getting some experience coaching would really help her
“She relates to them in a way that is unique having just been there. Being a player on the team is fresh in her mind, so having that resource is invaluable to us and I love having a recent graduate on the coaching staff for that very reason,” Watson said. Coming off a season where Howe was the best defender in the conference she believes she brings a definite defensive edge to the team.
“Defense is obviously my specialty and I have been playing with most of these girls for years,” Howe said. “I know them as players and people so if anyone is having a hard time I feel like I can communicate with them on a level that isn’t necessarily intimidating.”
Both teams should seemingly benefit by having these two superior former athletes on their coaching staff. We should see more of this here at KSC as nearly every sport has a former athlete on the coaching staff to date.
You can also see the women’s field hockey team in action Oct. 6 at home versus Worcester State University.
Jay McAree can be contacted at