Is Wareham’s Paige Fehskens the Northeast-10 Conference Woman of the Year? How about the NE-10 Women’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year?
She’s about to find out.
Fehskens, who just completed her degree at Bentley University last week and ran cross country and track for the Falcons, is the school’s nominee for both conference awards, which will be announced May 26 and May 27.
“It’s a shock to me,” she said. “What an honor. I’m thrilled.”
Fehskens ran four seasons of cross country at Bentley and two full years of track. But that’s just part of her resume. She entered the final semester with a 3.87 GPA as an accountancy and liberal studies major. She appeared on the school’s President’s List six times.
But don’t overlook her athletic career. She was Bentley’s No. 1 cross country runner for three straight seasons and ranks in the top 12 all-time in two track events.
“She stepped onto campus mature beyond her years,” said Bentley track and cross country coach Kevin Curtin. “She always had the bearings of an upperclassmen. She took care of her business academically and athleticially.”
Fehskens was a captain of the track and soccer teams at Wareham — and was the school’s Student of the Year, Athlete of the Year and her class’s president and valedictorian — but the school had cut its cross country program before she arrived. When she got to campus at Bentley, she was in for a surprise.
“I still remember the day I was up in the varsity weight room and I met (Curtin),” she said. “He told me, ‘If you run the 800 and up, you do cross country. He said it with a chuckle, like he breaks this news to a lot of distance runners. He had a devious smile. I’ll definitely forever be grateful for that devious smile.
“If he didn’t push distance runners into it, I probably would have put academics first and I wouldn’t have done cross country. I love cross country now, it became my favorite of the three seasons.”
Fehskens was among Bentley’s two top finishers in four of the five races she ran in as a freshman, capping the season by taking 29th in the Division II East Regional (23:03.2). In her only race of the track season, she won the 3,000 at the UMass Boston Indoor Open (10:51.98), earning NE-10 Women’s Track Rookie of the Week honors.
“Her freshman year she was adapting to the training, but I thought she’d be pretty good,” Curtin said. “If you’re willing to go out there and tough it out, you’ll be fine. It didn’t surprise me. It’s about hard work and she’s always been willing to put in the work.”
As a sophomore, she vaulted into Bentley’s No. 1 runner position in the fall, leading the team in all six races, including a 26th-place finish at the Div. II East Regional (24:14.9), missing out on All-Region honors by a single place. She then enjoyed her best track season, finishing sixth in the 5,000 at the NE-10 Outdoor Championships (18:56.66) and 12th in the 3,000 at the NE-10 Indoor Championships (10:45.05).
In the fall of her junior year, Fehskens earned All-Region honors by placing 24th in the Division II East Regional (23:23.90) and was selected to the Google Cloud Academic All-District team and the Academic All-Northeast-10 team.
She missed the indoor and outdoor track seasons that year — other than one indoor race — opting to spend a semester studying in Madrid, Spain.
“Absolutely life changing is the most accurate way I can describe going abroad,” she said. “It’s never something I imagined I’d be able to do.”
She went with her roommate of four years and friend, Gigi Tracey, and they explored much of Europe together.
“It taught me so much about life outside the bubble you grow up in,” she said. “You learn so much about other cultures and broaden your horizens. I got to see so many places on my runs. It was incredible. I have quite the hankering to go back.”
She returned for her senior year and once again led Bentley in every race, placing 22nd in the Northeast-10 Championship before struggling a little at the Division II East Regional, placing 40th.
“It was a brutal course,” she said. “But it was not my best race. I was in pain. It was an excellent season for me, but I had a shin splint and I ran in pain.”
The shin splint turned into a stress fracture, and she found herself in a walking boot. After discussions with the team’s athletic trainer, she decided to take the indoor track season off in order to prepare for her final outdoor season.
The boot finally came off during her spring break, but days later, as she was preparing to return to campus, she got an email that the spring season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She ended up competing in just one track meet in her final two years.
Fehskens would have graduated on May 16, but Bentley’s graduation has been postponed to Aug. 22.
“I’m hoping it can stay on for August,” she said. “It feels weird to have your four years end with the click of a submit button on your last final.”
She already has a job lined up with Deloitte Touche, an accounting firm. She interned for them for eight weeks last summer.
“It was absolutely incredible,” she said. “I loved the team I was placed on. I got so much experience. The whole atmosphere, I absolutely loved it.”
She signed an offer sheet last fall and plans to start in the fall. She will work in their auditing department.
“I love the attention to detail and the mathematical part of it,” she said. “I love the idea of the interpersonal relationships with clients, there’s a team element.”
For now, though, Fehskens is back in Wareham studying for her CPA exam. She plans to move to Boston in the fall. She still wonders how different her final semester of college could have been.
“I think I’ve been thinking so much about it because of not having closure and goodbyes,” she said. “What I’ll miss most is the sense of community. One of the great things about Bentley is the size creates a community. I’m sure a lot of people say this, but I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.”
Curtin isn’t surprised to know Fehskens is on such an impressive trajectory.
“She’s the most generous person I’ve had on my teams,” he said. “In what turned out to be our last week of practice, the week before spring break, she showed up five minutes late to practice. She had been at an elderly home in Waltham teaching computer skills. She was teaching a 90-year-old woman how to use a mouse.
“She’s bright. She’s personable. She’s hard-working. She’s going to be fine.”
Curtin suddenly recalled another story.
“We went on a trip to San Diego her sophomore year for an indoor meet. I was having trouble finding a restaurant that could handle 40 people. She got on the phone and found one and called them and asked me for a price point. The rest of the trip we went to five or six restaurants and she picked them out.
“We’re going to have some big shoes to fill.”
Follow Brendan Kurie on Twitter @BrendanKurieSCT