By Dave Dyer
---- — Ben Pare has always had his priorities straight.
An outstanding distance runner for Methuen High, he still put academics first (he was a Moynihan Scholar/Athlete winner and class valedictorian) and valued the team’s success, whether in cross country or track, as more important than his own.
As an upcoming senior at UMass Lowell, Pare has continued along the same line. A Northeast-10 Academic All-Conference pick last fall, he finished his junior year with a 3.95 GPA and he’s still more concerned about how the team fares than himself.
Perhaps partly for that reason, Pare was recently named one of two captains for the UMass Lowell cross country team this fall. He was the team’s fifth man most of last fall but he should move up this year.
We caught up with Pare between a busy summer of working and training to go Around the Horn.
Were you selected as a captain by your teammates or coach (Gary Gardner) and how big of a surprise was it?
“The coach named me, because of the hard work I’ve put in and because I’m a senior. It was a little bit of a surprise, but I was hoping for it. It’s always an honor to be a captain.”
UMass Lowell has traditionally made the nationals, but last year it did not make it — how disappointing was that?
“It was tough, a humbling experience. But we’re trying to make up for it this year by winning the America East Conference.”
Is that a realistic goal, to finish first in America East in your first year in Division 1?”
“From what we know, it’s a pretty level field, so we have a chance. Everyone’s good, but there are no great teams. We could finish anywhere from first to sixth.
“It’d be great to be the first (UMass Lowell) team to win a Division 1 championship. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Won’t it be hard to accomplish that without (graduated standouts) Jeff Veiga and Eric McDonald (of Groveland)?
“It’ll be a challenge because they were two huge members of the team. We’re going to need some guys to step it up a level. We might not have anyone get to their level so it’s going to take a group effort.”
What’s more rewarding — having a good race in cross country as the team’s fourth or fifth man or running a terrific race in track as a high finisher?
“Cross country is a lot more rewarding because you can play a huge role in a team’s success.”
What takes more out of you physically, cross country or track?
Cross country. The races are longer, you’re running trail races and you have the hills.
What’s your individual goal for cross country?
I really don’t have one. I’m thinking more of a team goal, to win the conference and make up for last year.”
What’s your proudest athletic accomplishment in high school or college?
“It was the year before this when we won (cross country) regionals. I didn’t have a great race but we had come back from finishing third the week before in the conference race. It was a great feeling.”
What’s your major and your career goal?
“I’m a biology/pre-med major and I’d like to be a doctor, Right now, I’m thinking about anesthesiology.”
Are you a commuter or boarder?
“I was a commuter for awhile, but I’ve been living on campus the last two years. I like the boarding aspect better. You can establish better relationships with your teammates, which is important.”
What are you doing this summer?
“I’m pretty busy. I work at the UMass Medical School and I also have a part-time job at Lowell General Hospital.”
What about your summer training? Is it hard with your busy schedule and the heat?
“Sometimes I don’t get out until 11:30 at night, which can be tough, but it is cooler then. On the weekends, I usually go to Winnekenni (in Haverhill) or Maudslay (in Newburyport) with some teammates (including Central grad Connor Habib and Methuen’s Tyler Sullivan). We’re doing 70 to 80 miles per week.”
TV Show: The Office
Movie: Remember the Titans
Book: Catcher in the Rye
Food: Ice cream
Restaurant; The Tuscan Kitchen in Salem (N.H.)
Teacher; Mr. Peter Salemi, my high school chemistry teacher
Pro sports team: Boston Red Sox
Pro athlete: Dustin Pedroia
Music: Alternative rock
Democrat or Republican; Democrat
Vacation spot: Bahamas, we went when I was 12 years old