AUBURN — As a kid, Mary Caron watched her older sisters.
She learned and she dreamed — not only of similar experiences but greater success.
"I always wanted to get better than them," said the St. Dom's senior shortstop.
Her sisters, Renee and Sarah, were both part of the Class C state championship softball team in 2001. That made for a pretty high standard for their younger sister to match.
"I always watched my sisters and learned a lot from them," said Caron. "When I was a little kid, my Dad carried me around. I learned a lot from watching everything."
Caron is unlikely to win a state title with the Saints despite a stellar career. St. Dom's graduated five seniors from last year and only had two other seniors back with Caron this spring, Becky Trytek and Dayle Jordan. Juniors Lexi Casey and Bethany Fox are the only other returning players. This year's club has five freshmen, including unseasoned talent at pitcher and catcher. It has allowed Caron to leave her mark in a different way.
"It's too bad when you get a senior at her level and not have the full support of maturity around her," St. Dom's coach Mike Murphy said. "We do have five freshmen, but she understands that. Part of her legacy is making sure these kids understand that this sport is supposed to be fun. They're supposed to work hard. They're supposed to see her role model. Hopefully, by the time they're juniors and seniors, they'll remember what she taught them."
It's a leadership role that isn't anything new for Caron. She's been a standout goaltender and helped backstop the Saints soccer team to a regional title before losing a heartbreaker in overtime in the Class C state championship. She's been the go-to player on a young basketball team. She's been a driving force on all of her varsity teams, and this year it is magnified.
"We seniors definitely had to take the reigns," said Caron. "We had to lead this team. We've had to teach a lot of freshmen and go over a lot of stuff, like baserunning and where to go with the ball. We're getting better and we're growing."
The Saints are 4-8 and still in the hunt for a Western C playoff berth, especially after a win over Class B Mountain Valley on Friday. Caron had a two-run triple in the top of the seventh to help lift the Saints to the 6-5 win.
"She's just a great athlete that brings the other kids up," Murphy said. "Mary is one of those that is no drama. It's all about being there with other kids and playing the sport and doing what you're supposed to do. She's been a great asset to this school."
When Murphy talks about Caron's impact at St. Dom's, he actually mentions her athletic exploits last.
"Mary's meant a tremendous amount for this school," said Murphy. "Not only is she a great kid, she's a top scholar, a super person and a great athlete."
Though athletics has been a big part of her St. Dom's career, it is just part of who she is and that is evident in her plans for next year. She's going to attend the University of Connecticut and study pharmacy. She has no expectations to play sports there unless maybe she attempts a walk on with the softball program.
"It's sad to see my last season go by, but I have to move on eventually," Caron said.
While many players of her all-star caliber in three spots would likely keep playing, Caron's goals are a little higher.
"Mary's concerned about the rest of her life," Murphy said. "She gives the extra amount. She's diving. She's the one who always has the dirty uniform and she's always making the extra effort. She's probably the best shortstop in the Mountain Valley Conference. I really believe that, but I think Mary also knows, like we try to get all the kids to understand here, that academics is always ahead of athletics."
Caron followed in the cleats of another outstanding shortstop at St. Dom's. Caron initially played center while Mary Lewis was a superb leader in the infield. Caron learned a great deal from her and has made the position her own ever since. She's tried to serve as a similar leader and influence as the players and siblings that went before her.
"I've tried to take it on and handle it with grace," Caron said. "I've tried to teach the freshmen and step into that role."