Robitaille twins

Manchester West’s Robitaille twins, Corinne, left, and Julia, are taking their considerable athletic and academic talents to Dartmouth College.

As Manchester West cross-country coach Leo Ducharme began to list the impressive things twin sisters Julia and Corinne Robitaille have done during their high school careers, one item stood out — and it had nothing to do with school records or first-place finishes.

“I teach at West, but I’m also the adviser to the student council,” Ducharme explained. “Once a month we help serve breakfast at the Salvation Army, and they’re always there. They’re always giving back. If they both stopped competing (in athletics) tomorrow, they would both be young women who would contribute a lot to society.”

It doesn’t appear the Robitailles will stop competing anytime soon, however.

The sisters, who are seniors at West, recently announced they would be continuing their academic and athletic careers at Dartmouth College. They each visited Dartmouth in October, but didn’t learn they were accepted to the school until mid-December.

Both will run cross country and compete in indoor and outdoor track for the Big Green.

“We took the visit together but we each had different hosts, which I think was a good thing,” Julia said. “After the visit we both kind of felt the same way about Dartmouth, so that helped solidify the decision. Going into the process I was open to all options, but I always had Dartmouth in the back of my mind. My last (college) visit was to Dartmouth. I loved the team, loved the school, loved the atmosphere. It felt right.

“First and foremost, I based the decision on academics. The fact that Dartmouth has been competitive (in track and cross country) was an added bonus. I wanted a place where I could continue my running career because that’s what makes me happy.”

The Robitailles also visited Boston College and the University of New Hampshire. Corinne said she and her sister weren’t always planning to attend college at the same school.

“We told each other it’s OK if we went separate places,” she said. “My priority was academics. I wanted to go to the place that would challenge me the most. After the visit I realized that I liked Dartmouth the most.”

Each sister has a long and impressive athletic resume. Julia’s best stretch may have come last year when she won the New England Interscholastic Championship, the Northeast Regional Championship and then earned All-America status by placing 13th at the Nike Cross Country Nationals. The top 15 runners in that competition were awarded All-America honors.

Ducharme said one of Corinne’s best athletic performances came when when she set a school record by finishing second in the 400 meters at the Division II Outdoor Track and Field Meet at Kennett High School last May. After a brief rest, she returned to the track and finished first in the 800.

“Her rest between races was about 10, 12 minutes,” Ducharme said. “They’re both driven. They take every race as if it’s the Olympics. They approach each race the same way.

“Obviously they’re good academically. They’re both 4.0 students and tied for first in their senior class. They’re both in the band. The work they put in as students is the same as they do for athletics. It’s full effort with everything they do.”

As Ducharme noted, that effort includes being part of a group that helps make and serve breakfast at the Salvation Army.

Like running does, that community service seems to bring the Robitailles a certain amount of satisfaction.

“We go one Saturday every month,” Corinne said. “If feels good to do something for less fortunate people in our community. It’s nice to be able to share what we can.”

rbrown@unionleader.com