Trio continues running tradition at Lourdes Academy

Abby Moore, Maeve McDonald and Nora Keller, close friends on and off the track, seek a return to the state medal stand

OSHKOSH — A number of standout girls’ distance runners have left their mark in recent years at Lourdes Academy in Oshkosh, including a current trio that is among the best in the state. Seniors Abby Moore and Maeve McDonald and junior Nora Keller are back on the track in hopes of building on a fifth place team finish at state a year ago. The Knights finished only 4.5 points out of second in the Division 3 state field, so expectations are high.

Abby Moore, left, Maeve McDonald and Nora Keller lead a strong group of distance runners at Lourdes Academy in Oshkosh. In addition to earning state medals in track and field, the three were standouts on the Lourdes’ cross country team that won the Division 3 state championship in the fall.  (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

Abby Moore, left, Maeve McDonald and Nora Keller lead a strong group of distance runners at Lourdes Academy in Oshkosh. In addition to earning state medals in track and field, the three were standouts on the Lourdes’ cross country team that won the Division 3 state championship in the fall. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

“We definitely want to get as many individuals and relay teams to state as possible,” said McDonald. “The ultimate goal would be to win state. That would be great, but getting people there is always a great accomplishment.”

“We all have our individual goals,” said Keller. “We want to hit certain times, but it’s also so much fun when you can have your teammates alongside you at the state meet.”

“We want to push each other to do our best collectively as a group,” said Moore, “and go for that team goal as well as our individual goals.”

Individually, Keller, Moore and McDonald finished third, fourth and fifth respectively at state in the 3,200 meters last season. Moore also finished fourth and Keller fifth in the 1,600 meters. So far this spring, in addition to their individual races, the three have been joined by senior Crystal Combs to run the 4 x 800 meter relay. Keller anchored the 4 x 800 team — also featuring Combs, senior Maddy Reed and sophomore Angela Moore, Abby’s younger sister — that finished second at state last year.

“Our relays are going to be really good this year because I think our team is deeper than ever, especially with some of the freshmen,” said Keller.

“For distance, we’ve got a good group, but we also have a lot of good sprinters and a lot of good freshmen,” said Abby. “I’m excited to see what they can do this year.”

Leadership by the veteran runners on the team helps the newcomers contribute immediately.

“We always try to encourage the middle school runners,” said McDonald. “We do some practices with them and we always like to encourage them to come out for cross country.”

Lourdes has cemented its place as the top Division 3 girls cross country program in the state by winning three of the last four state championships — 2010, 2011 and 2013. Keller, second overall, McDonald and Abby Moore all finished in the top 15 individually at the state cross country meet last fall.

The trio is not only close on the track and cross country course, but also good friends away from competition.

“We’ve become such close friends and running is such a social sport,” said Abby. “We have gatherings at Maeve’s house. We go for a Sunday run, where we go to her house and run, hang out and eat a lot of food.”

They also found time to work out during musical season.

“We are in (the musical) just for fun, said Abby with a laugh in reference to McDonald and herself, poking fun at their musical talents. “Nora is really good.”

The three runners have known each other since elementary school. Keller praises her senior teammates for serving as good role models.

“Maeve and Abby have been great leaders,” she said. “As a freshman, I didn’t know what I was doing, but they were always very helpful and I’ve grown to get to know them a lot better over the years.”

Part of that leadership is setting a good example by being among the hardest workers on the team in practice. They also lead before races and meets, whether it’s praying the Hail Mary or “Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us …”

All three are part of family traditions in the cross country and track and field programs. Keller followed older sisters, Carolyn and Marta, former runners for Lourdes. McDonald’s older brother D.T., who runs for Marquette University, and older sister, Clare, who is a member of the cross country and track and field teams at the University of Wisconsin, came before her. Abby, whose father, Tim Moore, is the head track and field coach at Lourdes, led the tradition in her family. In addition to Angela, more siblings are on the way.

“I’m the oldest of seven in my family,” she said. “They are all runners.”

Abby plans to run for Christian Brothers University in Memphis next year. Maeve will join the cross country and track teams at Marquette.

“I was saying how cool it would be if we all ran in college and were in the same meet for separate schools,” said Nora.

“The three of us should go on runs every five years,” said Abby.

Winning a state team or individual title would be the ultimate reward in their final season together, but wherever they finish, the experience will be a memorable one.

“We’ve come so far together,” said Abby. “The state medals and titles are really nice, but being able to be best friends with Nora and Maeve and all the other girls on the team is what I’m going to cherish.”