Two Maine high school seniors made the most of their appearances in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships on Saturday in San Diego.

In her third attempt, Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk placed fourth at sunny Balboa Park in a 5-kilometer race featuring 40 of the finest high school runners in the country.

In his Foot Locker debut, Matt McClintock of Madison High held on for the 15th and final all-America slot.

No runner from Maine had achieved an all-America designation since Ben True of North Yarmouth and Greely High placed fifth in 2003.

True, now a professional runner with his sights on the 2012 Olympics, was on hand and served as an honorary captain for the Northeast contingent. Upon meeting McClintock on Friday night, True responded to the runner’s request for “some Maine love on the back of my bib number” by writing “Rip it up, man. Wicked good!”

“We Maine people stuck together for this race,” said McClintock, whose parents remained home in Athens but who received a hug from Leonardi’s mom, Lynda, before the race and vocal support from Jack Leonardi throughout it.

McClintock spoke by cellphone from a balcony of San Diego’s swanky Hotel del Coronado — “The whole complex is bigger than my hometown,” he marveled.

The girls’ race began Saturday morning with Erin Finn of Michigan racing to a big lead. Leonardi remained among the leaders of a chase pack through two miles before attempting to attack.

Wisconsin senior Molly Seidel finally caught Finn, only to see Finn retake the lead before Seidel surged to a two-second victory in 17 minutes, 21.4 seconds.

Laura Leff, a sophomore from Syracuse, N.Y., was third in 17:33.9, followed by Leonardi in 17:35.3 and West Regional champion Karlie Garcia of California in 17:35.6.

The best finish for a Maine schoolgirl had been fifth by Susannah Beck of Waynflete in 1985. Not since Louis Luchini of Ellsworth placed second in 1998 has a Maine runner finished among the top four.

“I’m excited because I feel like I did my best,” Leonardi said by phone from Balboa Park. “I think you’re never completely satisfied with the race because I feel like, ‘Aw, (Leff) was only a second or two ahead of me. I could have been third.’ But I did the best I could.”

Leonardi opted not to follow Seidel when the Wisconsin runner set out to overtake Finn, a junior.

“I really just tried to stick to my own race,” Leonardi said. “I didn’t want to go too early and ruin my race.”

McClintock’s scariest moment may have come during his cool-down run, when an on-site announcer read the list of all-America runners and concluded with “third team, all-American from Athens, Maine … Timothy Ball.”

Ball, from Piscataway, N.J., actually finished 16th, but the announcement sent McClintock sprinting back to his tent to double-check results.

Edward Cheserek of New Jersey — a high school junior in his second year in the United States after growing up in Kenya — won a duel with Futsum Zeinasellassie of Indianapolis by half a second in 14:51.5, nearly half a minute ahead of the rest of the field.

McClintock’s time was 15:31.3. After getting boxed in early in the race, he said he remained between 20th and 25th until the midway point, when the pack began to thin and he found room to move up.

“I started my kick with about 1,000 meters to go and caught a couple kids,” McClintock said. “Then the last 150, I got caught by three kids but I had enough of a cushion and I was able to hold on to (15th).”

McClintock wasn’t sure whether he and Leonardi would receive a certificate, medallion or trophy at Saturday night’s awards banquet.

“I just like to be able to say I’m all-American,” he said. “That’s the most important thing to me is just the title. I mean, there’s only 15 kids a year who get it out of everybody in the United States.”

It means “you ran against the best competition in your region and you were lucky enough to qualify,” he said. “Then you ran against the best competition in the country and you were lucky enough to get all-American.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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