Maribel Yerxa Owen, born in 1940 in Boston, Massachusetts, was named after her mother, Maribel Yerxa Vinson Owen. She had several nicknames, including Little Maribel and Maribel Jr. She began skating at age two in Berkeley, California, and trained daily alongside her parents, Maribel and Guy Owen, who taught at the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club at the Iceland rink. However, she did not immediately succeed competitively. After her parents divorced, she, her mother, and her sister Laurence, moved to her mother’s hometown of Winchester, Massachusetts, in 1954, and joined The Skating Club of Boston.
After her singles career stalled, her mother invited twenty-year-old Chuck Foster, to compete in pairs with her fourteen-year-old daughter. They won the 1955 U.S. junior pairs title in their first year of competition. They retired after winning the 1956 U.S. senior pairs bronze medal when Chuck graduated from Harvard. A year later, Maribel Jr. formed a pair with long-time competitor Dudley Richards. They competed in the 1960 Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California, were the 1961 U.S. Pairs Champion, and the silver medalists at the 1961 North American Championships. There was speculation that Maribel Jr. and twenty-nine-year-old Dudley would announce their engagement after returning from the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Maribel Jr., a Boston University student, planned to be a school teacher.