First it was a knee problem. Then it was the calf. And if that weren’t enough to slow Bowdoin senior Sam Seekins down, along came a hamstring injury.

“It was pretty frustrating,” said Seekins, 22, an Erskine graduate and standout runner on the Bowdoin cross country team. “It was one thing after another. The season got off to a rough start for me.”

Seekins missed the first four races of the season with various leg injuries for a team many felt would contend for the Division III national championship.

The injuries never prevented Seekins from training, but they were prevalent enough to keep him from racing.

“They were all minor injuries,” he said. “They didn’t keep from me running, which was good, but they always popped up right before a race. They would then go away for two to three days and then something else would pop up.

“It was a different thing every week. I’d fix one problem but then something else would happen. I was getting scared for a little bit because I didn’t want to miss this season. But then I started to feel better.”

And at an opportune time for Bowdoin, which was ranked No. 5 in a national Division III preseason coaches poll.

Seekins returned for the Maine State Championships on Oct. 19 at Colby. He finished the 5-mile race fourth overall with a time of 26 minutes, 30.10 seconds. Although he won the race as a junior, Seekins said to finish the race healthy was a victory in and of itself.

“I was nervous before the race because I didn’t know how I would hold up,” Seekins said. “When I got to the two-mile mark, though, my legs felt fine so I went for it. It felt great to finish strong. I’m now confident the rest of the season will go as planned.”

The Polar Bears, who won the State of Maine Championship, certainly hope so.

“Sam is a big-meet competitor,” Bowdoin coach Peter Slovenski said. “He’s our frontrunner. With him in the lineup, we are top-10, top-15 team in the nation. Without him, we’re not even in the top 25.”

The team is gearing up for what it hopes will be a strong showing at the NCAA Division III national championships on Nov. 23 at Hanover College in Hanover, Ind.

Next up is the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship meet Saturday at Connecticut College.

“There are five teams in the NESCAC that are ranked in the top 20 of the country,” Slovenski said. “This is going to be a big race.”

On Nov. 16, the Polar Bears will head to the University of Southern Maine for the New England Division III championship.

“That’s kind of the big one,” said Seekins, a physics and environmental science double major. “We want to qualify for nationals, and we think we can do it again. The regional qualifier determines who goes to nationals. That’s our big goal.”

Bowdoin finished 13th at nationals last year. Expectations are much higher this time around.

“We want to go top 10,” Seekins added. “We have the talent to do it. Hopefully, we can all stay healthy.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @billstewartkj

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