In her first national tournament at the age of 10, Kristen Waagbo could not hold back the tears when her basketball team trailed at halftime.
"The team was down by one or two baskets, and it just was so intense in the gym," recalled her mother, Jean Waagbo. "Up until then, it had been all fun and games. The girls had never needed to play with that kind of intensity."
That was the last time Waagbo, now an All-Metro lacrosse and basketball player at Mount Hebron, cried during a game.
Her team came back to win that Amateur Athletic Union game, and from that point on she began developing not only the skills that would set her apart from other high school athletes but also the poise to contend with that pressure.
The combination of the two has made the Vikings' senior one of the most successful multi-sport athletes to play in the metro area. With just one game left in her high school career, Waagbo has already been a Howard County Player of the Year twice in basketball and once in lacrosse as well as The Sun's 2001-2002 Female Athlete of the Year.
As the No. 1 Vikings (17-0) go for their seventh straight state girls lacrosse title tonight against No. 8 Annapolis at UMBC, Waagbo has endured only one setback in four years - a 10-9 loss to Alexandria, Va., power St. Stephen's/St. Agnes during her sophomore year. The Vikings have been No. 1 in The Sun every week of her career.
Playing for that juggernaut, ranked No. 1 in the country by Lacrosse magazine twice in the past four years, should take some of the pressure off. That's not always the case.
"Everyone would love to beat us," said Waagbo, 18. "In that sense, being at the top and having people chase after us, there is a lot of pressure. It's my senior year. I really don't want to lose."
Still if the midfielder feels the pressure, she never lets it show - not even as she competes for a spot on the U.S. team that will play for the 2003 International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Associations Under-19 World Championship, June 26 to July 6 at Towson University.
"She is the most poised athlete I can ever recall coaching," said under-19 coach Wendy Kridel, also the coach at Bryn Mawr. "I've never seen someone so calm under pressure. It just doesn't bother her. Multiple people don't bother her. Nothing bothers her."
Waagbo said handling the pressure got easier over the years as she honed her skills.
Her parents, who were her earliest coaches, agreed.
Steve Waagbo pointed to his daughter's 1999 Cobras lacrosse team that won the MYLA girls 13-14 A Tournament championship and went 23-0-1, beating the top private middle school teams.
"You go play all those teams and you think, `Wow, we've heard that these other schools have good lacrosse programs,' but when you go out and have success against them, that breeds confidence," he said.
As the main scoring threat for the Vikings' lacrosse and basketball teams, the 6-foot Waagbo faces all kinds of defenses designed specifically to stop her. Few have.
"She knows how to get into the cage," said Vikings coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland. "She can maneuver and pirouette right through. She has an uncanny sense of where the defender's going to be, and she knows where to place her body."
Once she gets into the arc, Waagbo is just about a goalie's worst nightmare.
"Her height helps her a lot because sometimes she can dump it over your head," said former Mount Hebron goalie Cindy Nicolaus, now playing at No. 1 Loyola College. "She has these awesome stick skills and the most amazing fakes. She just moves you and tricks you."
Even when she doesn't score many goals, Waagbo is a threat. Annapolis double-teamed her down to one goal in last year's Class 3A-2A state lacrosse final, so she dished out a tournament-record six assists. Result? Mount Hebron 18, Annapolis 7.
"That's so characteristic of Kristen," said Vikings teammate Maria Bosica. "When one part of her game is being held down, she expands it in another way. She's a very unselfish player. She's always looking for a play rather than a goal."
Still, the goals have rolled up pretty quickly over the past four years, even though Mount Hebron has a cache of strong attackers and Waagbo rarely plays more than 20 minutes of any game that's not close. She has amassed 218 career goals and 118 assists.
Waagbo's scoring has been even more valuable to the Vikings' basketball program.
This past winter, she contributed 44.1 percent of the No. 8 Vikings' total offense, averaging 20.1 points. She led Mount Hebron in scoring every game.
The forward finished her career with 1,496 points, second on the Vikings' rich all-time list behind Dorothea Beck's 1,676.
"She is a clutch, clutch player," said Vikings basketball coach Scott Robinson, also an assistant coach for the lacrosse team. "She knew in basketball that each game we depended on her having a huge scoring game or we were not going to win, and she came through."
As Waagbo, who has a 3.71 grade point average, prepares to wind up her high school career, she isn't doing much looking back. Instead she's looking forward to new, tougher challenges such as making the under-19 team and playing next season for Duke.
"I've had a really great career," Waagbo said. "It's been awesome to play in such a lacrosse powerhouse. I know that my first week in college I could lose more games than I've lost at Hebron, but I'm ready to move on."