Amber Clutter and Jason Smith dared to dream and made a lot of sacrifices almost every day of their lives to pursue three-sport careers over the past 12 years.
Yesterday it all seemed worthwhile for these two athletes who were honored at The Baltimore Sun's 29th annual High School Athletes of the Year luncheon in Towson.
Broadneck High's Smith was chosen as the Boys Athlete of the Year and South Carroll's Clutter was selected as the Girls Athlete of the Year in the Baltimore metropolitan area that includes 111 schools and more than 13,100 athletes playing varsity sports.
"I didn't expect it," said Smith. "A lot of guys around here had great years in sports."
Clutter said: "It's a big shock. I didn't think I had a chance. I'm happy I played three sports."
Smith, who is headed to Rutgers University, was a four-year starter in basketball, three-time Anne Arundel County Player of the Year and two-time first-team Baltimore Sun All-Metro. He established a state record for career catches (149) and yardage (2,198) as a three-year wide receiver in football, and had two big seasons as a sprinter and relay runner for the track team.
In his senior year on the track team, he won four gold medals in the state 3A track championships.
That followed a basketball season in which Smith led Broadneck to the state 3A semifinals against Thomas Johnson at Cole Field House.
Sacrifices for Smith?
"Well I missed graduation because of a track [state] meet," he said. "This morning [yesterday], they had a special ceremony for me."
Smith has been playing sports since he was 5 years old and his father, Howard, said: "It's fantastic for Jason to get this award. Those four gold medals at the state track meet were a grand finale."
Off the playing field, Smith found time to do so much good in community service projects that he received several citations from former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.
He cooked and served food last Thanksgiving at the Lighthouse Homeless Shelter in Annapolis, is president of the Greater Glen Burnie Chapter of the Jack and Jill teen group, has collected clothing for Sarah's House and took part in the Dr. Martin Luther King Breakfasts from 1992 to 1994.
For Clutter, it has been a remarkable climb from a 5-year-old girl who used to follow her mother, Linda, around on the softball field in Woodbine to high school All-America soccer status and a $25,000 Presidential Scholarship to Division I Campbell (N.C.) University, where she is scheduled to start as a freshman on the soccer team.
In addition to winning nearly every high school soccer award imaginable, Clutter has spent her evenings and weekends 12 months a year playing on state and regional Olympic Development teams and playing for the Baltimore Football Club Glyndon United soccer team that advanced to the USA Cup quarterfinals in Minneapolis.
In basketball, she was a point guard for a 22-2 South Carroll team last winter, often setting up her teammates for a lot of high-percentage shots instead of shooting a three-pointer.
In girls doubles tennis, Clutter had a 65-7 record with three partners in four years.
When South Carroll soccer coach Jim Horn was asked to describe Clutter, he said simply: "Humble. Too humble."
l Horn said that his star player could have racked up a lot more impressive individual stats if she had been a little less giving to her teammates.
Linda Clutter said of her daughter: "We've always set goals for Amber and she has accomplished them, no matter how impossible they seemed. Now I have the year 2000 marked down as the year she graduates, and maybe she is good enough to play soccer in the Olympics."