Thori Staples put the perfect finishing touch on her high school athletic career by winning four state track and field titles last weekend.
The Joppatowne senior won Class 1A championships in the 100-meter hurdles, the 400 and 800 runs, and the long jump. She also swept all four titles at the Harford County championships a couple of weeks earlier.
At this year's state meet on May 23, Staples single-handedly outscored all of the other Harford girls teams.
Her 40 points were good enough to place fifth in the Class 1A team race.
The Harford County Sun's Female Athlete of the Year, Staples earned All-Metro honors in soccer as well as track this year.
As a speedy, intimidating striker, Staples has led the Harford girls soccer league in scoring every year since 1989. On the track, she has gotten progressively better since winning one state title as a freshman. She won two as a sophomore and made it three as a junior.
Staples, who also led the Mariners' basketball team in scoring, won the Amateur Athletic Union heptathlon for girls age 17-18 last summer.
She also set a county record of 15.2 seconds in the 100 hurdles earlier this spring. That was the third-fastest time in the metro area.
Although track has brought her more recognition, Staples said she prefers soccer.
This fall, she heads to North Carolina State on a scholarship that will keep her on the track for at least one year. After that, she can chose to concentrate only on soccer.
For several years, Staples, who carries a 3.6 grade-point average, has honed her skills with the highly competitive Columbia Crusaders club soccer team.
Two years ago, she was chosen to try out for the Regional Olympic Development team, but she couldn't go because of a track conflict.
Ever since then, she has soured on track. While she did spend a week last August at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., she turned down an invitation to try out for the junior national track team. She played soccer instead.
North Carolina State women's soccer coach Larry Gross said Staples is one of the best athletes he has ever recruited. Because of her athletic ability and versatility, Gross said he plans to turn her into a defensive player.
Gross, a Towson State graduate, said he was most impressed with Staples' speed and athleticism as well as her strength. He said speed is becoming more important in the women's college game, so he needed to recruit faster players. Staples was one of his priorities.
She will get a chance to earn a starting position right away. "I think she'll be drawn upon to mark some of the best strikers in the country. We lost a lot of experience, but we're going to gain athleticism and speed."