Alli Chamberlain always ran with heart at Scarborough High.

She left for the University of Vermont in the fall of 2007 to run track, but transferred to Keene State in New Hampshire to pursue her love of architecture.

It would change her life.

During a routine physical for athletes at Keene State, doctors discovered Chamberlain had an unusual heart. After further testing, she was diagnosed with atrial septal defect (ASD), a hole in her heart that kept oxygenated blood from flowing freely through her body.

Within days, she underwent a procedure to install a nickel titanium clamp. Three weeks later, she was back running. A year later, she is faster than ever.

On March 12-13, Chamberlain will compete in the NCAA Division III indoor track and field championships at Greencastle, Ind., with a legitimate chance of winning the mile or the 800 meters.

She never stopped to think about how wrong things could have gone.

”It happened so fast that sometimes I forget,” said Chamberlain, a junior. ”I don’t think it ever really hit me how scary it was. I think it still hasn’t. Now, running has been easier.

”The only way I can clearly explain it is during high school, I was never a distance runner. It was so hard. A chore.

”I always wondered why is everyone else so easily doing this? Why is it so difficult for me? Now I know why.”

Chamberlain won the mile at the New England Division III women’s track and field meet last week at the University of Southern Maine, finishing in 4 minutes, 55.9 seconds.

In fact, she is ranked No. 4 nationally in both the 800 and mile.

Since her heart procedure, she has shaved 5 seconds off her 800 time — from 2:18 to about 2:13. At the NCAA meet she’s hoping to drop to 2:10.

”Fortunately for us, Alli decided she wanted to be an architect major,” said Keene State Coach Peter Thomas, who recruited Chamberlain out of high school. ”And that proved fortunate for her. We can’t speculate how many physicals she’d gone through before, and no one had picked up on it.”

Chamberlain never even competed in the mile until this year.

”It’s longer than what I ever saw myself doing,” said Chamberlain.

Her parents, who lived through the whirlwind last year, are proud of their daughter.

They heard what the doctors said. ASD can lead to problems later in life. It most definitely meant a shorter life span and complications in maternity.

”We didn’t have enough time (to get scared),” said her father, John Chamberlain. ”It was a shock to all of us. We talked to a specialist and within a week we scheduled the procedure. It was like mayhem and before we knew it, it was over.”

Alli now spends much of her time away from the track in the architecture studio.

”Any college student who transfers will tell you it’s a tough transition. I made that leap,” she said. ”It saved my life. I don’t regret it at all.”

UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND

Women’s basketball coach Anthony Ewing was named the Commonwealth Coast Conference coach of the year this week, and Kelley Paradis of Newport and Carrie Bunnell were named to the all-conference team.

Ewing led the top-seeded Nor’easters to a 20-5 regular-season record, and they have advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament.

UNE will face No. 4 Salve Regina at 7 tonight in Biddeford after beating Roger Williams 74-46 Tuesday in the quarterfinals.

BOWDOIN

The top-seeded men’s hockey team will host No. 8 Colby in the New England Small College Athletic Conference quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The old rivals have never met in the conference tournament.

Bowdoin is 17-5-1 overall, 14-4-1 in the conference; Colby is 11-8-4, 7-8-4.

The fifth-seeded women’s hockey team travels to Williams for a NESCAC quarterfinal at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Polar Bears (11-11-2, 8-7-1 NESCAC) lost to fourth-seeded Williams (12-10-2, 9-6-1) 3-2 in the regular-season finale last week.

The women’s basketball team (20-5) will face Colby (22-3) in the NESCAC semifinals at Amherst College at 4 p.m. Saturday.

The winner will face the Amherst-Bates semifinal winner in the championship game at noon Sunday.

Bowdoin is 25-1 all time in the NESCAC tournament.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE

The women’s basketball team plays Eastern Connecticut State at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Danbury, Conn., in the semifinals of the Little East Conference tournament. Both teams had 10-4 conference records during the regular season.

The third-seeded Huskies, on a six-game winning streak, are led in scoring by Curran Leighton (16.3 per game) and Kaylie DeMillo (12.1).

Men’s hockey players Dan Rautenberg of Cape Elizabeth and Mason St. Hilaire of Saco were named player and goalie of the week, respectively, by the Eastern College Athletic Conference.

Rautenberg leads the Huskies in scoring with 10 goals and 16 assists. St. Hilaire is 7-4-1 with a 3.23 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.

USM, 10-12-3 overall, 7-9-3 in the ECAC, heads into the league quarterfinals on Saturday. The fourth-seeded Huskies will host Skidmore (8-15-2, 7-10-2) at 7 p.m.

The sixth-seeded women’s hockey team will be at No. 3 UMass-Boston at 3 p.m. Saturday to open the ECAC East playoffs. The Huskies (11-12-2, 9-10-0 ECAC) have won four straight games.

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]