The actual race? That’s the easy part for Abbey Leonardi, the Kennebunk High senior and four-time Class A cross country state champion.
Covering 5 kilometers takes Leonardi about 18 minutes, quicker than her carefully coordinated cool-down and barely an eye blink compared with her elaborate hour-plus warmup.
“Everyone makes fun of me for how long it takes,” Leonardi said. “But my warmup and all the drills I do, it’s been pretty close to the same routine since sixth grade, with a few little tweaks here and there.”
Sometimes it’s better not to mess with success. The New England champion as a freshman, Leonardi became Maine’s first three-time Foot Locker national finalist last weekend with her third consecutive runner-up finish in the Northeast Regional.
For the fourth year in a row, she is our choice as Maine Sunday Telegram runner of the year for girls’ cross country.
Leonardi’s unprecedented dominance — the only other four-time state champ in cross country was Scott Roberts of Maranacook (1982-85) in Class B — coupled with her quiet resolve, slight build and fierce competitive streak remind many in these parts of another Maine schoolgirl who made a name for herself in distance running.
Joan Benoit Samuelson says any comparisons are off base.
“I think she’s in a league of her own,” said Samuelson, who applauded Leonardi’s recent decision to accept an athletic scholarship to the University of Oregon. “She’ll definitely carry what I like to label ‘The Maine Work Ethic’ out there with her.”
Leonardi, an honor student, was also courted by Princeton, Georgetown, Boston College and Providence. Her twin sister, Aley, is a standout soccer player who will continue her athletic career at Stony Brook.
Leonardi and Samuelson had a chance to chat while cooling down after last month’s Bayside 5K, a rare road race for Leonardi.
“I’ve got a long way to go to get to where she was,” said Leonardi. “But it’s an honor to make that little connection.”
“She’s very efficient,” Samuelson said. “She certainly has all the characteristics and traits it takes to be a great distance runner.”
And future marathoner?
“I think before people start speculating about what she might do in the longer distances,” Samuelson said, “enjoy what she’ll do in college.”
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: