When Alannah MacLean needs someone to push her to her limits in sports, she doesn’t look far — turning to her younger sister, Isabelle.
And when Isabelle is in need of extra motivation, she turns to her older sister for inspiration.
There’s no sibling rivalry with the MacLean sisters. Instead of trying to beat one another, they turn their energy into helping one another become the best they can be.
The approach has worked wonders for the Lo-Ellen Park die-hard cross-country skiers and helped deepen their relationship as sisters.
“Isabelle is someone I can count on,” Alannah said. “She’s my training partner and she pushes me and I push her.
Cross-country skiing is an independent sport, but you need someone you can rely on to train with. It means a lot to have that in my life.”
She has the same goals I had. She is exactly where I was when I was in Grade 10.
Alannah, 17, is the been-there-done-that person Isabelle taps into. Alannah is a provincial (OFSAA) high school champion and a national club championship bronze medal winner.
Isabelle, 16, would love to follow in her big sister’s footsteps and earn provincial and national glory of her own.
Isabelle sees no reason to look anywhere else to get her pumped up.
“Alannah is someone I look up to,” Isabelle said. “She understands skiing and has done it all. Having someone who has tested the waters is nice to have around. She inspires me all the time.”
And why not follow someone such as Alannah? She is a driven and passionate athlete who sets her goals high and pours every last drop of sweat and tears into making them a reality.
In 2010, Alannah set her mind on reaching the goal of being the best senior high school Nordic skier in the province, and she did it in the five-km freestyle event.
Achieving that goal made everything come together for Alannah and she realized aiming high was the only way to go.
This past ski season, Alannah put checks on every one of her goals — she qualified for the Canada Winter Games; earned more than 85 CPL points; placed top three in every Ontario Cup race; was the top junior female in the Ontario club ranks and won a national medal.
“Last year, I really found out the power of goal-setting,” she said. “Before I was middle of the pack. I made the decision to be a top skier and want more.
“I set goals I knew I could achieve if I pushed myself harder. It showed me what I was capable of. It’s powerful.”
Isabelle watches her older sister like a hawk. Isabelle is riding the same wave as her sister and has also come to realize the true power of goal-setting. Isabelle has taken Alannah’s goal-setting approach to heart.
“It has worked for her,” Isabelle said. “You set goals so you can exceed what you thought you were possible of doing. Alannah is an example for me and I want to do as well as she has.
“I try and learn as much as I can from Alannah... She doesn’t make the same mistake twice. She has really helped the mental aspect of it for me.”
The sisters make an impact at Lo-Ellen Park on a daily basis, helping organize events and activities to promote school spirit. They make genuine role models for younger students and their peers.
“They are very hard working and motivated to succeed,” Lo-Ellen Park athletic director, coach and teacher Yves Poirier said. “The MacLean sisters are very competitive, a trait that allows them to be successful as athletes and students.
“They are among the most committed athletes in our school. The countless hours they put in to develop their skill is at a level I rarely see.”
When Alannah sees Isabelle busting her guts to improve, skiing hour after hour, it puts a big smile on her face.
Despite being at different stages of their careers, both are tuned directly into what the other is trying to achieve.
Alannah’s next big goal is to make the national team. Isabelle’s next big goal is to make the provincial team.
“She has the same goals I had,” Alannah said. “She is exactly where I was when I was in Grade 10. It would be awesome if she could reach the same goals I have. I’m trying to help her find the power to succeed. I found it.”
Isabelle is making the most of her time with her sister. It’s going to be scarce for the next few years as Alannah will graduate this June and move on to university.
“There is a difference when she’s not there — it’s not as intense,” Isabelle said. “I’ll have to get used to it and push myself harder.”
Isabelle should be just fine. She sounds exactly like her sister.