Erin Wylde's athletic career started when she was 8, on the basketball court. No one had trouble picking her out.
"She was the shortest one, with no teeth," said her father, Tom. "She was like a jitterbug out there, real quick."
When she entered her freshman year at Severna Park High, Erin was still a half pint, well under 5 feet. Her mother, Sarah, continually "worried about her because she was always the tiniest one in her class." Yet her father continued to push her into basketball.
"I'm too short," she protested.
Tom Wylde shrugged and was surprised to hear an announcement a few days later: "Guess what, Dad? I'm on the track team."
Was she ever. A year later, she was a member of Severna Park's 4-by-800 relay team that won the state championship.
A lot has changed in Erin Wylde's athletic life.
Basketball is an afterthought. Track is her third sport. Lacrosse is her first. She has grown to 5 feet 7 and is the senior captain and high scorer on the 6-0 soccer team, which is tied for second with Hammond in The Baltimore Sun's poll.
"She was so little when I first saw her," said Severna Park soccer coach Joyce Stefancik. "You could tell she was a natural athlete because she was such a good ballhandler. She was so quick, no one pushed her around. Now that she's grown, she does the pushing."
In Stefancik's estimation, there's not a fall sport at Severna Park at which Wylde couldn't excel. Field hockey, volleyball, cross country -- you name it.
"Cross country would love to have her," Stefancik said. "She can run forever. Her endurance is so superior that she rarely comes out of a game."
Before the season, Stefancik thought she had a team devoid of stars and that it would score "by committee." Wylde, however, is clearly the scoring leader with six of the 15 goals.
"We have no stars," Stefancik maintained. "But Erin has chaired the committee. I thought a striker would be leading -- Lindsey Poland or Dana Cappello -- but Erin, by virtue of her three headers, leads. She's in the right place at the right time. A smart player knows how to handle the ball and what to do with it."
At Stefancik's urging, Wylde made a list of three individual goals before the season.
"The first was to double my goals [three] from last year," she said, noting that she has done that. "The second was more assists [none yet] and the third, I can't remember. The team goal is to win the states."
3l As Stefancik puts it, "To be the last one standing."
Wylde's primary soccer accolade -- second-team all-county last year -- pales beside her lacrosse achievements. A midfielder, she is a two-time first-team high school All-American.
"She wanted to try everything," said her mother. "She was a versatile child. She finally found that her best sport was lacrosse."
Colleges are courting her -- Penn State, Maryland, Virginia and James Madison.
She's unsure whether she'll be allowed to play soccer as well as lacrosse in college, but that doesn't matter to her.
One of five children, Erin followed her sister, Amy, older by 5
years, into Severna Park's Green Hornets recreation program. Amy was a high school soccer All-American at Severna Park and played at Long Island University.
"Erin is a stronger all-around player than Amy," Stefancik said, "mainly because she has played soccer and lacrosse for so many years. Amy didn't start until eighth or ninth grade."
Tom Wylde recalls pushing Amy more than he did Erin. When Amy was 12 and swimming for Navy Juniors, she finished 22nd in the breaststroke one day and told her father, "That's the best I can do." Within weeks, she plunged into soccer.
Erin never was pushed, in part because her father realized he had been too hard on Amy. Erin was a natural who reveled in working hard in any sport.
"I've never seen her not practice hard," Stefancik said. "You can't say that about many kids."