Hereford senior Sarah Ashwood, with her 5-foot-2 frame and low-key demeanor, doesn't look like a typical star athlete. "She is tiny and quiet," Hereford girls soccer and indoor coach Brad Duvall said. "But people really listen when she speaks."
Actions speak louder than words for Ashwood, the 2014 North County News female Athlete of the Year whose speed gave her an advantage over many standout competitors.
Ashwood had a sterling senior year. She earned second-team all-county honors in soccer, won a county championship in the 1,600 meters in indoor track and was named an all-county first-team selection in lacrosse.
Ashwood also captained the soccer and lacrosse teams, carried a 3.7 grade-point average and served as president of the school's Leo Club, which does charity work.
Ashwood will attend the University of Delaware on a lacrosse scholarship next season. She plans to major in nursing.
"She is just the whole package," Hereford girls lacrosse coach Anne Ensor said. "She has a great work ethic and worked hard every single day. She is a great teammate. She is a good leader, but a quiet leader."
Of the three sports, Ashwood made the biggest impact in lacrosse this spring.
The two-year starter and midfielder led the team in ground balls (55) and draw controls (37). She also ranked third in goals (34) and assists (11) and was fourth in caused turnovers (21) for an 18-1 squad that won the county championship.
"I think I stepped up more on offense this year," said Ashwood, who had 33 goals as a junior and led the Bulls in ground balls (30) while finishing second in draw controls (31) "I tried to lead the team more because I was a captain."
Ashwood said her desire for scooping up ground balls came from competing against her twin brother Jason, who will play lacrosse at High Point University in North Carolina next year.
"We used to have ground ball competition," Ashwood explained. "We always compete in everything we do."
Ensor said it always so much fun to watch Ashwood beat an opponent for a ground ball.
"They would have their eyes on the ground ball and they would be ready to pick it up," the coach said. "Then, all of sudden, she would come in from behind and she would be gone before they know what happened."
Ashwood had some memorable games as a senior.
She totaled five goals, three assists and eight ground balls in a 14-7 victory over Catonsville on April 4 and had four goals, three assists and six ground balls in a 15-4 rout of Oakdale.
"A lot of kids get to their senior year and they have already signed a letter of intent," Ensor said. "They have a million things going on. Sometimes, they don't finish the lacrosse season as well as they have in past years. There was no drop off with Sarah. She got better every single year."
That was the case in indoor track, too.
Ashwood won Class 3A state championships in the 1,600 as a sophomore and junior, improving her time by nearly half a second from one year to the other.
But this year, Ashwood ran a 5:12.57 to finish fourth in the Class 2A state meet, which was more than three seconds better than in 2013.
"That time would have won a (Class) 1A and 3A (state titles)," Duvall explained. "It was just the competition she ran up against. It was just ridiculous."
Ashwood won her third straight regional title in the 1,600 and turned in an impressive performance at the country championships, winning the same event.
Ashwood overtook Dulaney senior and University of Pennsylvania recruit Isabel Griffith, who won Class 4A state championships in cross country, indoor and outdoor track, the final 100 meters and won the 1600 in a personal-best time of 5:09.60.
"That was a really big deal," Ashwood said. "She is a year-round runner. I only do it one season."
Ashwood also stood out in soccer. She started for four years at midfield and had eight goals and seven assists last fall.
Her best game came in a 4-1 victory over Eastern Tech as she recorded a goal and an assist.
"She was our distributor and general," Duvall said. "She controlled the pace of play in the middle of the field. For as small as she was, she won all the midfield balls. Because of her fitness level, it was a guarantee she would play 80 minutes."