Kelly McCloskey never approaches a challenge at less than 100 percent. Her mind and her body won't allow it.
Whether it's playing center-halfback in field hockey, running laps at practice or applying herself in the classroom, McCloskey must go full-throttle at all times. Otherwise, she feels cheated.
"I get that from my parents," said McCloskey, a 1989 graduate of Severna Park High. "They were always telling me that it doesn't matter if you succeed, as long as you try your hardest. That way, you can't be disappointed with yourself."
McCloskey didn't abandon this philosophy upon leaving Severna Park, where she was an All-Metro sweeper and graduated in the top 8 percent in her class. Take a look at the game films at Wake Forest University, where she is completing her fourth year as a starter. Or, better yet, check out her academic transcripts.
The 3.5 grade-point average impresses almost as much as the notion that McCloskey will receive a biology degree in just 3 1/2 years. She's taking 22 credit hours and has made the dean's list every year.
All of this while emerging as one of the top defensive players in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"I seem to do a lot better when I'm really busy and have to budget my time," she said. "That way, I can't sit around and loaf and procrastinate. I seem to waste time if don't have things to do."
Her responsibilities on the field increased significantly this year.
Having been a member of the less-competitive Deep South Field Hockey Association for McCloskey's first three seasons, Wake Forest began playing an upgraded ACC schedule. That meant bidding farewell to in-state opponents such as High Point College and Pfeiffer College. And among the Wake Forest players waving farewell to life in the slower lane were four sophomores and eight freshmen.
To make matters worse, of the five ACC schools that offer field hockey, four -- all Wake Forest opponents -- are in the top 20.
"Welcome to the ACC," says first-year coach Jennifer Averill, laughing. The transition hasn't been smooth -- the Demon Deacons went from a 10-6-2 record last year to 2-7-3 with five games remaining -- but McCloskey has held the young team together.
"Kelly is, by far, our most consistent player," Averill said. "And that doesn't just apply to game days. It's the same with everything she applies herself to.
"She's got extraordinary leadership qualities. Without a doubt, she's going to be the most difficult player to replace."
McCloskey's final season at Wake Forest has been one of adjustment. Along with a radical change in opponents and a new coach, her home games are being played on artificial turf. A member of two state-championship teams at Severna Park, her speed and quickness never have been more valuable.
"With the new turf and new coach, I just wish they had made these changes earlier," she said. "I'm happy for the program. In the next couple of years, Wake will definitely break into the top 20. I wish I could stay around for a couple more years, but it's my time to move on."
McCloskey's fiance -- whom she will marry in July -- is attending graduate school at the University of Virginia. She will apply to medical school there and decide later what field of medicine to practice.
"A lot of people don't make that decision until they go through their rounds, get a feel for what they like or dislike," she said.
One decision has been made. Under no circumstances will Kelly McCloskey disappoint herself.
"I got lucky," said Kelly's mother, Kathi Perkins. "She's such a good person. She's worked very hard for everything and I respect that. If I could model myself after someone, it would be her."
Averill said, "If I bring in any perspective student-athletes, I most definitely want them to meet Kelly. She's set the standard for future student-athletes at Wake Forest."