You could certainly excuse Kelsey Twist Schroeder if she felt like the most under-appreciated Baltimore Sun Female Athlete of the Year ever.
When Schroeder won in 2001, she shared the spotlight with a teenager who would go on to become the most accomplished Athlete of the Year in the 50-year history of the award. He was only 15 that day but was already an Olympic veteran and a world record holder.
He was, of course, Michael Phelps and he created a buzz everywhere he went even then.
However, Schroeder, a three-sport standout at Roland Park, never felt the Towson High sophomore stole her share of the spotlight that day. And now, she has had quite the story to tell as Phelps swam his way to becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time – 22 gold medals at last count after Thursday night's win.
The Baltimore Sun is holding its 50th High School Athletes of the Year banquet today, celebrating the top 10 male and the top 10 female athletes of the past
"Now when people talk about Michael Phelps, I of course show them this photo and say, 'There was a time one day when Michael Phelps and I were sitting at the same table together,'" Schroeder said with a laugh, "so to me it's still kind of a delight to say this was a great day that I had. I have great memories of it from that day, but I think I remember it more fondly now because it's an even greater honor."
Schroeder, who was about to graduate and head off to Stanford, remembers talking with Phelps after the awards ceremony at the ESPN Zone at the Inner Harbor.
"He seemed young and I remember he was a little bit quiet. He seemed like a kid. He was a couple years younger than me. In a lot of ways, I felt like I was standing next to another teenager and I wasn't totally awestruck. It was a different time. He hadn't become Michael Phelps as we know him yet."
As The Sun's Female Athlete of the Year, Schroeder had every reason to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Phelps. Not only was she an All-Metro player for Top 20 teams in lacrosse, field hockey and basketball at Roland Park, but she had won a world championship gold medal with the U.S. Under-19 women's lacrosse team in Australia the year before Phelps swam there in the Olympics.
"I felt like what an honor it was to be on that same platform with this other really accomplished athlete. I also felt like what I was doing was really special and we were really different kinds of athletes. I was a three-sport athlete and I did all team sports, so I really respected everything he was doing, but I also thought it was special to be on the teams that I had been on and I was proud of everything we worked for as a team, so I think I was just really grateful to be there that day."
Phelps, who never competed for Towson because Baltimore County doesn't have interscholastic swimming, finished fifth in the 200-meter butterfly at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and then broke the world record in the event, becoming the youngest man to hold a world record in swimming. He remains the only sophomore to be selected The Sun's High School Athlete of the Year.
For Schroeder, Phelps is far from the only Olympian she's ever encountered. She met lots of them during her four years at Stanford, where she played lacrosse. At Roland Park, where she has been an administrator and teacher, she taught one – Toni-Ann Williams, who in Rio de Janeiro became the first Olympic gymnast to represent Jamaica.
Schroeder even married an Olympian -- rower Jamie Schroeder. They now have three daughters, including a newborn, as Phelps does.
She met her husband right after the Athens games in 2004 and went with him to the Beijing games in 2008. While she remembers seeing some swimming events in Beijing, she didn't get to see Phelps swim for any of his record eight gold medals.
Still the picture of her and Phelps taken after the Athlete of the Year awards surfaces every four years or so.
"I think it's just hysterical, because when that photo came up again – I hadn't looked at it for a really long time – for the 50th anniversary [of The Sun's Athlete of the Year awards in June], I just laughed. I think the two of us look like such babies. We look so young there. It was a pretty long time ago."
After the luncheon, Phelps hung around to have his picture taken with everyone who wanted one -- and a lot of the other 74 athletes did. Surely many of those photos are the center of conversation this week too.
Schroeder said she wanted to ask her father if he took any other photos of the two of them besides the one she has.
"I'm sure we have some, but they're probably stuck in a shoe box at my parents' house. We'll have to dig them up. I don't remember thinking too much of it. I had a very nice boyfriend at time," she said with a laugh.