Maria Eastman Looks to Follow Her Sister’s Path

Even though they’re sisters, the paths Maria and Molly Eastman  have taken to sharing a course on the Gophers cross country team almost took a slightly different turn.

The sisters started their career off in Victoria, Minnesota at Holy Family Catholic High School, both proving that they were standouts. 

With Molly paving the path, Maria had her own legacy to create at Holy Family, where she had been competing in cross country since she was an eighth grader, finishing 95th in the four kilometer state race that year. Every year after, Maria followed a trend. Besides qualifying a total of five times for state in cross country, she improved at the same rate as her sister once had, almost like a mirror. The four time all conference cross country runner didn’t just stop with cross country though; she found her footing on the track as well, with an 11th place finish in the 3200 meter state championships. As a freshman, Maria was a part of the school record breaking runners with Molly that finished runner-up in 2013 for the 4X800. Throughout the years, Maria has noticed something too: even though Molly is two years older, they both are running almost the exact times if you compared them to when they were the same age.

“My sister’s my number one role model,” Maria said. “Seeing her progress over the years has given me a lot of motivation. I weirdly run the exact same times as when my sister was a sophomore. That’s a huge thing for me to stay motivated.”

Maria seemed like she was heading in-sync on the same route, setting course for the same destination. Each were hard workers that made themselves into who they are today through their work ethic. Both came from the same school, household, and womb. And both saw each other as reflections of themselves at the same age, just sitting at different stages in life. Yet, that route took a detour when they chose different colleges. For Molly, she chose to stick close to home and walked-on for the Gophers. Maria, on the other hand, decided to move across the border and begin her collegiate career at the University of Iowa.

At Iowa, Maria ran in five races during the 2016-2017 cross country season. She met new faces, made new connections, had new experiences, but for Maria, she was missing something: she wanted to be home. So, for the 2017 season, Maria made her way toward a new path: a path that collided back with her sister’s on the University of Minnesota cross country team.

“I missed my family. We’re really close,” Maria said. “I missed the city, and not having that city life got a little boring. It was a tough decision though.”

The cross country team typically splits up their racers, with the fastest runners competing on the travel team, also called the Big Ten team. 

Molly’s] first couple of years, she was just on the team,” said head coach Sarah Hopkins. “She was a good high school athlete, nothing really over the top. But last year, you could tell she came in a different athlete. We had a big group that graduated from the top spots and she saw that opportunity to make her next jump. For Maria, she’s had these first couple of years similar to Molly. Maybe nothing outstanding, but seeing Molly’s trajectory gives her hope, and it also shows us that genetically she’s got some ability to keep getting better.” 

With that in mind, Maria’s set her sights on a new goal: to catch up with her sister. Both Hopkins and Maria know it’s going to be a process that takes time; a process that won’t come easy and won’t happen overnight. But with Molly continuing to guide her and be there as the main motivator in her life, Maria has big hopes of carrying on the tradition of what her big sister has done: get better.

“Hopefully next year I can be on the travel team,” Maria said. “I want to keep moving up and competing with my teammates to be on the Big Ten team.”