Gardiner’s Jillian LeClair tries to get away from Cony’s Dorice Reitchel during a 1999 game. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal files

Growing up, it was never a question what Jillian LeClair’s athletic passion would be. She was drawn to field hockey from the start. She was always watching the Gardiner team’s games. Her older sister, Julie, was a Gardiner player. Her aunt, Moe McNally, was the Tigers’ coach.

It was a passion at first, and then it became a lifestyle, as LeClair showed she had the talent to match the drive. Talent that earned her first Miss Maine Field Hockey recognition, and then a Division I career at Holy Cross.

“I just loved it,” she said. “I just wanted to be playing all the time.”

That passion gave way to another for medicine, as LeClair — now Jillian Dulac, with a pair of young girls — has been working as an obstetrician-gynecologist at Manchester OB/GYN Associates in New Hampshire, where a long list of patients and even longer hours are often the norm. 

“In college, I liked the idea of being in medicine and helping people,” said Dulac, 38. “I really loved OB, I loved delivering babies, I loved doing surgery. I really liked seeing patients in the office and getting to kind of know them over the course of their lifetime and getting to know their families. Being a part of some of the best and worst times in people’s lives was pretty meaningful.”

Dulac started off at Holy Cross majoring in biology, but switched to pre-med. She then went to medical school at Dartmouth, where she encountered first difficult class work, and then challenging field experience.

Skowhegan’s Jen Merry, left, and Jen Gray, front, poke the ball away from Gardiner’s Jillian LeClair during a 1999 game. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal files

“It’s intense,” she said. “A lot of people say it’s like trying to drink out of a fire hydrant with all the information that gets thrown at you. I remember at one point studying for my Step 2 boards, everyday words I couldn’t remember. I remember one morning holding up a fork, looking at my friend and being like ‘What is this called?’ I had so much other stuff in my head that I couldn’t remember the name for a fork.

“But at the same time, it was really fun.”

Dulac then went to the University of Connecticut in 2009 for her residency, and returned to New Hampshire when she got her job in Manchester in 2013. She’s been there ever since.

JILLIAN LeCLAIR

“Now that I’ve been in private practice for a while, I think it’s really the connections with patients that’s probably the best part about it,” she said. “Getting to know women and delivering their first baby and their second baby, and being there for their miscarriage, and helping them with big decisions in their lives. I think that’s the best part about it.”

In her high school days, Dulac became known for her field hockey prowess, turning in one of the best careers the Gardiner program has seen.

“She is the best passer I’ve seen in 21 years of coaching,” McNally said during Dulac’s senior year. “She ranks first academically in her class and you can see it on the field, her game sense, her intelligence. She’s seeing plays two and three down the road. Things we see on the sidelines, she sees on the field. She’s the complete package, there isn’t much this kid doesn’t do on the field.”

Dulac played nearly every game with her parents in attendance, and formed a strong bond with her teammates as well.

“I was pretty intense, and I wanted my teammates to be the same way,” she said. “We all wanted to win a state championship. That was our goal. I think we were all pretty intense, especially as we got older.”

Playing center midfield, Dulac scored 13 goals and added 12 assists as a senior in 1999, and was named Miss Maine Field Hockey over teammate Naomi Chapman and Jay’s Jana Ouellette.

“I was obviously very excited and honored,” she said. “Naomi and I had been playing together since we were in elementary school … and then we’d played with Jana for three years at Maine Event. They were also great players, so it was an honor to be chosen, but also an honor to be in their company.”

Dulac went on to play at Division I Holy Cross, which was an adjustment both in learning a new position (she moved to back) and a new pace and level of play.

“The first year was a big adjustment, with all of the changes,” she said. “The college game is so much faster, and playing on turf is so much faster.”

Gardiner’s Laurie Chandler, left, attempts to drive past Skowhegan goalie Meghan Gove as Jillian LeClair provides cover during a 1999 game. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal files

Dulac got a handle on her new position, however, and was a four-year starter for the Crusaders.

“It was hard, but it was a great experience. I met some of the best friends of my life,” she said. “It was hard, balancing Division I field hockey with (being) a biology major in college.”

With her focus shifting to a field of intense studying and long hours, Dulac knew her playing career was coming to an end. She stayed involved with the sport, however, coaching the Gardiner freshmen in 2004, as well as a futures team from 2002-07.

The advancement of her medical career has left little time for field hockey, but Dulac isn’t closing the door of a return to the sport down the road.

“I’m hoping at some point to be able to get playing again in a league in Manchester,” she said. “(And) they have a youth league in Gardiner that they play on Sundays with the little kids, so potentially doing something like that as my girls get older, I think would be cool.”

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