WORCESTER TELEGRAM: "After much thought, Polito thinks he should just run"

Jennifer Toland
Colleges - Worcester Telegram


Stonehill senior Stephen Polito of Worcester thought his 11th-place performance at last month's New England Championships was his breakout race, but Skyhawks cross-country coach Karen Boen respectfully disagrees with that assessment. 

"We've seen it coming for a while," Boen said. "I was absolutely thrilled for him, but I wasn't surprised." 

Earning All-New England honors (top 15) for the first time was one of Polito's biggest goals this fall. He covered the 8K course at Franklin Park in Boston in 25:07 and was second among all Division 2 runners. Two weeks later, Polito finished second at the Northeast-10 Conference Championship while leading the Stonehill men's team to its second conference title in the last three years. 

"The New Englands was a confidence booster," said Polito, a Doherty High graduate. "To achieve two more goals at conference was sweet." 

Polito, a team captain, is preparing for Saturday's NCAA Division 2 Regionals, which will also be held at Franklin Park. He finished ninth at last year's regionals. 

Polito had a solid and consistent first three years at Stonehill, but he knew more was possible. 

"I knew it wouldn't just come to me," he said. "It would take a lot of work." 

Polito, who won the Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K in June, changed his approach to training over the summer. 

"My goal was to train consistently and not overtrain and not be too mental about it," he said. "The last couple of seasons I've been over-thinking things too much and I was married to my watch, really concerned with hitting exact times for runs and exact mileages for weeks. This summer, I stopped looking at my watch and just went off how I felt and that's what I'm still doing now." 

Polito began the season with a top-30 finish at the National Catholic Championships at Notre Dame and improved his times from a year ago at both the New England and NE-10 championships. 

"He's a great student of the sport," Boen said. "He listens so intently. When he came in as a freshman, you could just sense how much he wanted to be one of the best guys. He never brought a lot of attention to himself, he's not that kind of a person, but he really would almost emulate any of the guys who were our top runners." 

Polito became the top runner himself. 

"The hard work paid off and it's very helpful when you have a supportive team and coach and family cheering you on," Polito said. 

Polito's parents, Karen and Martin, and his younger sister, Stephanie, are at every race. Stephanie, a senior at Doherty, is Polito's No. 1 fan and has taken on the role of the Stonehill cross-country team's unofficial official photographer. She takes pictures at every race and immediately tags and organizes them for easy viewing on Facebook. 

Polito was a two-time Inter-High cross-country champion and a T&G all-star at Doherty. He keeps in touch with Highlander coach Dan Rushton, who is one of his biggest supporters. Polito also captained the Highlanders. 

"I believe he has three virtues of a great leader," Rushton said. "He has tremendous work ethic. He has the ability to motivate other runners to get the most out of their abilities and he truly cares about his teammates." 

A member of the National Honor Society in high school, Polito, who is a graphic design major, continues to excel academically. He is a Dean's List student and has also earned NE-10 academic accolades. 

Understandably, Polito wants his final cross-country season to go on for as long as possible. He'll be eyeing a trip to the NCAA Division 2 Championships later this month. 

"It's been a very good season, a great last season of cross-country for me," Polito said. "The team is a great bunch of young guys and everyone is running great."