Green Hope's Maura McConnell on pace for 16 varsity letters

tstevens@newsobserver.comAugust 23, 2012 

Green Hope's Maura McDonnell already has earned 12 varsity letters and is on track to win 16. ThatÕs four sports a year for all four years. From left, Sarah Alexander hands off to Maura McDonnell for the 4th leg for Green Hope Girls 4x800 relay in February 2012; McDonnell competes in the 4A Mideast Regional Cross Country Meet at the WakeMed Soccer Park in October 2011 and McDonnell moves the ball upfield against Hoggard during the Eastern Regional NCHSAA 4A Girls Soccer Final at Hoggard High School in Wilmington in May 2012. Photos by Damon Thomas, Liz Condo and Greg Mintel.

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Green Hope baseball coach Mike Miragliuolo sent out a tweet this summer reminding his baseball players that the Falcons baseball program has had four professional baseball players and that all had played multiple sports in high school.

“It is important for students to know that they don’t have to play one sport exclusively to be be successful,” Miragliuolo said.

Miragliuolo, who is also the Falcons’ cross country coach, can use Maura McDonnell has the perfect example of the benefits of high school sports involvement.

McDonnell already has earned 12 varsity letters and is on track to win 16. That’s four sports a year for all four years.

Playing in the state’s largest classification and against some of the nation’s top athletes, she already has played on three N.C. High School Athletic Association state 4A cross country champions, has finished fourth and fifth in the state individual cross country finals, and played for a state girls soccer championship.

She also has four top 10 finishes in the indoor and outdoor track and field championships.

In her spare time, she also plays club soccer in the fall.

She also has a 3.83 overall grade point average.

“I’ve learned how to manage my time,” she said.

"Mo has managed to balance her time in high school as well as any athlete I have known,” said Miragliuolo. “She has performed at the highest level in four sports throughout high school while maintaining excellent grades and always having a positive attitude.”

The soccer and distance running combination has worked well for her.

She can’t explain her endurance. For as long as she can remember she has been able to, as she phrased it, “run for a while.”

“I’m not the fastest,” she said. “But I can run a lot.”

She started playing soccer when she was five and didn’t get serious about running until years later. She ran track in middle school and joined the Green Hope cross country team because she had friends who ran.

The Green Hope cross country team has more than 220 members and is believed to be the largest high school athletic team in the country. Miragliuolo said the key to the team’s popularily is friends asking friends to run.

“It is tremendous,” McDonnell said. “I stay busy, but I get to see my friends at practice and spend time with them.”

But practicing two sports a day requires understanding coaches.

She said there is no way should could have done so many sports, if her coaches had not understood her circumstances.

She was relieved, for example, the day that she made a 12-mile training run in cross country that her soccer coach said she had done enough conditioning for the day.

All of her coaches allow her to make some training decisions, a factor, she believes, in her remaining healthy despite all her almost constant training for four years.

“My coaches understand if I have some soreness or pain,” she said. “They let me decided how hard to push myself.”

Miragliuolo said McDonnell has intangibles that have helped her be successful.

“While Mo has a very friendly demeanor and gets along with everyone, she is also a fierce competitor and has the killer instinct you would want in a top athlete," she said. “She is as nice as she can be, but she wants to beat you.”

Maura McConnell’s career

NCHSAA 4A

Junior

Cross country: 4th in NCHSAA individual championships, team championships

Indoor track: 2nd in 1,000

Soccer: 25-1, state runnerup

Track: 7th in 800

Sophomore

Cross country: 5th in championships, team champions

Indoor track: 2nd in 1,000

Soccer: 18-2

Track:

Freshman

Cross country: 12th individually in finals, team champion

Indoor track: 9th in 3,200

Soccer: 16-4

Track: 10th in 800

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