by Dean Backes
Special to The Leaven
ATCHISON — When she passed through the doors at Benedictine College here for the first time as a student, Clare Hanson’s quest to calm her competitive edge was on.
A three-sport star at Royal Valley High School in Hoyt, Hanson needed something more than intramural sports to fill the void she had left behind with the Panthers’ basketball, volleyball and softball programs and in the weight room.
Instead, what she found was a career, a way of life — her passion.
Just seven years after picking up a lacrosse stick for the first time, Hanson replaced Amanda Magee as Benedictine’s head women’s lacrosse coach last November. Magee left the program she started from scratch in 2015 to take on the same role at her alma mater of Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island.
“This is my alma mater. This program means so much to me,” Hanson said. “I can’t see myself being anywhere else. My goals are to bring as many national championships as I can to this program and to continue to graduate great kids who are going to be great members of society.”
Hanson’s selection as Raven head coach drew high praise from peers from her playing days and as a coach.
For Benedictine athletic director Charlie Gartenmayer, the always competitive Hanson was the perfect pick as Magee’s replacement — not only because she is a talented coach, but because she lived the Benedictine experience both as an athlete and spiritually.
“As my dad said, ‘Don’t criticize another person until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins,’” Gartenmayer said of Hanson’s elevation from player to grad assistant to head coach.
“Well, Clare has walked that mile in those moccasins,” he continued, “and she does a great job of relating and responding to the needs of the student/athlete that she is leading.”
Kacey Moore, who played with Hanson at Benedictine and then under her following Hanson’s graduation from the Heart of America school in 2018, said she could not think of a better person for the job.
“She loves Benedictine,” Moore said. “My favorite part of Benedictine is that you’re more than just an athlete. You’re developing your spiritual side; you’re developing yourself and you’re learning about yourself in this extremely unique environment in this world we live in today. She has really embodied that herself — has really prioritized it — and has preached on the importance of your spiritual life.”
Hanson has always been active in both her home parish of St. Francis Xavier in Mayetta and in the archdiocese. A regular at Camp Tekakwitha in Williamsburg during high school, for example, she also served for two additional years on the staff.
As a college athlete, Hanson and her teammates competed at the club level during the program’s inaugural season before taking on an NAIA schedule in 2016. Over the course of Benedictine’s first six varsity seasons, the Ravens are 67-15 and earned three bids to the NAIA Women’s Lacrosse National Invitational and earned a spot in the NAIA’s first Women’s Lacrosse Championship tournament last spring.
In 2019, Benedictine competed for a national championship and finished the season ranked No. 2 after dropping an 18-12 decision to SCAD Savannah in the invitational’s championship contest.
Yes, Hanson has large cleats to fill. But, she has guided the Ravens to an 11-2 regular season record and the team will compete in the eight-team NAIA Women’s Lacrosse Championship tournament starting on May 4 at Lawrence Tech University in Southfield, Michigan.
“She has all of these intangibles,” former Royal Valley head girls basketball coach Jason Grider said of his point guard. “She has soaked everything in and asked a lot of questions. She never questioned anything. But she always asked a lot of questions and did all of the dirty work. I don’t think I can speak for her on this, but I think lacrosse piqued her interest and she took to it like she did any sport and threw everything at it. She is going to be a really good head coach.”
After receiving her bachelor of arts degree in secondary education and social science in 2018, Hanson did take a sixth grade teaching position at Spring Hill Middle School and that spring started coaching club lacrosse at St. James Academy in Lenexa. Once again, she couldn’t stop thinking about lacrosse and made the difficult decision to part ways with her students and the teaching position.
Then, she was offered the position as graduate assistant in 2019 and 2020 at Benedictine and earned her master’s in business administration in 2021 before taking over the reins of the Raven lacrosse program.
“I just didn’t feel like I had tried to do everything that I wanted to do with lacrosse,” Hanson said. “And then, I started thinking about Coach Magee and that she got paid to do this all day long.”
A first-team all-conference midfielder and two-time captain as a player at Benedictine, Hanson absorbed a lot of information from her peers. Now, through countless hours of research, she networks with other coaches, works hard at her craft physically and incorporates it all into her program.
Hanson also borrowed what she thinks is an important element of Magee’s success.
“Her biggest attribute from year one . . . was: She let people lead,” Hanson said of her predecessor. “She wasn’t overbearing. She believed in people and then let them do their thing.
“That was huge. She didn’t try to micromanage, and I think that gave people ownership from the very beginning. It was our team. It was the players’ team, and it was her team. But that’s what sustained our culture. She believed in people.”