December 4, 2011

Girls' Cross Country: Following a routine has served Leonardi well

Preparation has been an important part of Abbey Leonardi's unprecedented success.

By Glenn Jordan
Staff Writer

The actual race? That's the easy part for Abbey Leonardi, the Kennebunk High senior and four-time Class A cross country state champion.

click image to enlarge

Abbey Leonardi, the only four-time girls’ cross country state champion in Maine history, is the Maine Sunday Telegram runner of the year for the fourth year in a row.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Telegram All-State Girls' Cross Country

Brittany Bowman, Camden Hills sophomore

The only race she won was the Class B state meet, in 19:12. Bowman also led the Windjammers to their first Eastern Maine title and earned all-New England honors with a 17th-place finish.

Bethanie Brown, Waterville junior

Runner-up in Class B after winning the Eastern Maine title. Also placed fifth in New England with a fast 18:34, second among all Maine runners.

Shannon Conley, Cheverus sophomore

Hung on for sixth at Class A state meet despite an illness that caused her to miss the New Englands. Helped Cheverus win its third consecutive regional and state titles.

Emily Durgin, Cheverus senior

Three-time Class A runner-up who placed third this fall. Never placed below third in four years at the New Englands. Led Cheverus to three straight Class A titles.

Fiona Hendry, Cheverus senior

Two-time all-New England runner who placed eighth with a season-fast time of 18:39. Fourth in Class A to help Cheverus win a third straight Class A state title.

Carsyn Koch, Washburn sophomore

Successfully defended Class C title by a half-minute. Missed all-New England honors by one spot, finishing 26th. Also played soccer.

Abbey Leonardi, Kennebunk senior

Four-time Class A state champion and three-time Foot Locker national finalist who dominated every race she entered. Broke Twin Brook course record at the regional meet.

Abbey Mace, Maranacook senior

Two-time Class B state champ who finished third this fall. Rebounded to earn all-New England honors for third time with seventh-place finish.

Kiera Murray, Cheverus sophomore

Placed fifth in Class A state meet to help Cheverus win third straight state title. Also finished 38th in New England, eighth among Maine runners.

Erzsebet Nagy, Lawrence junior

Runner-up in Class A to Leonardi, and the only runner at the state championships besides Leonardi to break 19 minutes. Elected not to run in the New England race. Eastern Class A champion.

Coach of the Year

Desiree Sirois, Mt. Desert Island

In Sirois' second year at the helm, the Trojans rallied from a one-point loss to Camden Hills in the regional meet to earn a 16-point victory at the Class B state meet. Mt. Desert's five scoring runners were ahead of every other team's third runner.

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:

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH


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