It seems as if Julie Baker were born to run fast, jump high, kick a soccer ball deftly with both feet, and lead a fast break down the basketball floor without ever breaking stride.
By the time she finished eighth grade, Baker already was being wooed by McDonogh School for her athletic and academic ability.
But the Hampstead resident opted to join her sister, Jenny, who was entering the 11th grade at North Carroll High and playing on the soccer and basketball teams.
At North Carroll, she quickly established herself as one of the top players on the girls soccer team and a superb jumper, hurdler and sprinter on the track team.
As a sophomore, she was a first-team All-Carroll girls soccer selection.
In basketball, Baker was destined to become a super point guard for the Panthers before she quit the team midway through her sophomore season last winter.
Baker loved to run the fast break, but coach Greg Knill preferred a more controlled game.
So Baker, saying she wasn't having any fun playing basketball at North Carroll, looked elsewhere for a basketball outlet. She joined the Annapolis Waves, an AAU team, where she was allowed to play a faster-paced game.
While a member of the Waves, she got the opportunity to play against The Baltimore Sun's 1993-1994 Girls High School Athlete of the Year, Kacy Williams of Hammond.
That was the chance Baker needed to prove to herself she could play basketball with the top girls in the Baltimore area.
"Kacy told me I was one of the best point guards she had ever played against," said Baker.
From that moment on, Baker felt it was necessary to expand her athletic and academic careers beyond Carroll County.
She contacted McDonogh last spring to see whether school administrators were still interested, and they were.
Baker said McDonogh offered her a combination academic-athletic scholarship and she accepted it.
"I needed a challenge in the classroom and in sports," said Baker. "I was getting bored in the classes. I'm not bragging or anything, but I do seem to catch on to things quickly in the classroom. And I figured a school like McDonogh would be better for getting athletic scholarships to college."
Knill said, "She's stepping up against good students and good athletes at McDonogh. A public education can't always give a girl like Julie all the challenges she needs. There was always something about Julie that intrigued me. She was an interesting kid."
Baker said she wants to concentrate on soccer and basketball at McDonogh, and will either run track or play softball in the spring. She commutes to McDonogh from her Hampstead home.
Baker has become an instant standout on a McDonogh soccer team that was ranked No. 3 in the nation last year and went unbeaten with a 19-0 record. The Eagles, ranked No. 1 in the Baltimore area, are off to a 5-0-1 start.
She starts at center midfield and had two goals and three assists last weekend when the Eagles traveled to New York and defeated Harkley and Rye high schools. Overall, Baker has three goals and six assists.
Before the season is over, she will play in women's soccer preliminaries at the University of Maryland and at Rutgers.
"I'm having a lot of fun," she said. "I'm getting along great with the other girls at school and on the team."
McDonogh soccer co-coach Maurice Boylan heaped high praise on Baker.
"Julie Baker can play for me any day, on any team, anywhere I ever coach," he said. "I love her to death. She's a great kid. That's the most important thing. She has a great work rate, tremendous attitude and always brings a smile to practice and to the games. I love that. She is possibly the best player in the air in the Catholic League and possibly in the area."
Boylan believes Baker will play at the Division I women's collegiate soccer level somewhere.
"She has a great vertical leap, is fearless and confident in the air and seems to win almost every head ball," said Boylan.
"She is tremendous at winning balls defensively and has fit right in with our team, even though she didn't know anybody when she came here."
Also, Baker is learning very quickly how to play behind McDonogh's Laurie Schwoy, who is considered one of the top forwards in the country.
"Laurie [49 goals, 21 assists last season as a sophomore] wants the ball constantly and forever at her feet," said Boylan. "She is constantly on Julie about that, and Julie understands what Laurie wants. Julie is very intelligent."