Throughout her illustrious high school athletic career at St. Paul's, Mount Airy resident Tricia Burdt was always a notch or two above her stiffest competition.
She began playing varsity soccer in the eighth grade and added field hockey -- her No. 1 sport -- and lacrosse her freshman campaign. That year, she was an Association of Independent Schools All-Star in all three.
When her soccer eligibility ran out after her junior year, she played basketball as a senior and earned AIS All-Star status. "Purely on defense," she said.
Along the way, she was an honor roll student, three-time Junior Olympics participant in field hockey and The Baltimore Sun's Field Hockey Player of the Year last fall.
The 17-year-old Burdt is testing new waters these days. She returned home from San Antonio last week where she competed at the U.S. Olympic Festival in field hockey.
Among the youngest of the 60 competitors, Burdt got a taste of what to expect when she takes the field this fall for the University of Maryland. She certainly showed she belonged, helping guide the West squad to a gold medal while playing center back and sweeper.
"It's the most prestigious of everything so far," Burdt said. "I played with and against a lot of higher skilled, college-level players who have more experience. Playing against that level only makes you better."
The West team finished with a 3-0-2 mark in the tournament and was the team least scored upon. At center back, Burdt often was responsible for marking the opposition's top- scoring threat.
"In the Junior Olympics, all the players were under 18. At the Olympic Festival, I was playing against more experienced players and it was really tough. I was going up against some of the top college players in the country and had to stay on my toes and stay focused," Burdt said.
Burdt's attentions now are focused on gaining a starting position at Maryland this fall, but she knows it won't be easy.
The Terps have a strong program, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title last fall and finishing fifth in the nation. Preseason camp begins Aug. 19.
"I'm both excited and nervous. It's a whole new experience," Burdt said.
"We have just about everyone back from last year's team and a lot of good recruits coming in. It's something I'm going to have to work very hard for."
Burdt, who will major in physical education, earned a full scholarship to play both field hockey and lacrosse. Lacrosse was her favorite sport until her freshman year at St. Paul's, when field hockey took over.
"I'm really looking forward to being on my own and I'm still pretty close to home so my parents will be at all my games," she said.
Eventually, she wants to compete in the Olympics.
"I'd like to make the '96 team but that would be tough. I'd still be pretty young  and would have to stop college and take up residency in Virginia where the team is," Burdt said.
"The year 2000 is my goal."