Maryclare Leonard wrapped her arms around Marist teammates Annmarie Leonard, her sister, and Julie Yaeger shortly after she won the Class 3A regional race at Midlothian Meadows.
The kinship was obvious among the cross country trio after they led Marist to its fourth straight regional title, but it won’t quite be the same Saturday at the state meet in Peoria.
As the only Marist runner to make it out of the Hinsdale Central Sectional, Maryclare, a freshman, will be running for the RedHawks and for her older sister. Annmarie, a senior, was just four seconds behind the final state meet qualifier.
“My sister has been pushing me since I was little,’’ Maryclare said. “She’s always been my motivation. I really couldn’t have done it without her.’’
Maryclare Leonard finished fifth among 140 sectional runners, clocking an impressive time of 17 minutes, 44.96 seconds in a strong field at Katherine Legge Park.
But Maryclare, whom Marist coach Pat Quinn said “has been kind of hanging around the program for years,’’ has more appreciation for what her sister accomplished even beyond her four years at Marist.
“She had problems when she was younger,’’ Maryclare said. “She was told she would never run. Her running … is something. Her to run well is just amazing. I always wanted to be like my sister.’’
“She’d go on training runs with me when I had to train on my own when she was still in grade school,’’ Annmarie said.
Annmarie won the individual title this year at the Reavis Invitational, was fifth in the East Suburban Catholic meet and sixth in the regional. That’s quite a turnaround from having to wear leg casts as a 1-year-old.
“I walked on my tiptoes, as soon as I started walking,’’ Annmarie said. “I didn’t ever walk on my heels. I went straight from sitting down to walking on my tiptoes. I never crawled.’’
Annmarie had to be fitted every week for new leg casts from the time she was eight months old until after she turned 2. She still wears braces when she sleeps.
“Since I went through all that physical therapy and medical process, I’m actually thinking of going into the medical field, either being a physical therapist or a doctor,’’ Annmarie said.
Saturday, she’ll be cheering on her sister at Detweiller Park.
Led by freshman Morgan Bollinger, Lockport could be a contender for a trophy and certainly a top-10 finish after winning the Hinsdale Central Sectional.
In Class 2A, Illiana Christian All-Stater Alexa Beezhold, 15th in the 2012 race, earned a return trip to the state final with a 15th-place finish (19:13) at the Wheaton Academy Sectional.