Only the best intentions

The competitive nature of Winters Mill senior Katie Hertsch drives her to excel in three sports, as well as in the classroom.

March 08, 2006|By RICH SCHERR | RICH SCHERR,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Never one to seek out glory, Winters Mill's Katie Hertsch doesn't mind doing the grunt work necessary to be a reliable defender in lacrosse.

At least not as long as she does it better than anyone else.

"I'm not going to get all the goals and stats, but that doesn't really matter that much to me," said the Winters Mill senior, who has earned a scholarship to continue her lacrosse career at Ohio University. "I love defense because I can just be really aggressive. I'm just really competitive by nature."

It's that competitive fire that has driven this self-described "perfectionist" to the heights of nearly every endeavor she has tried.

In school, she's a straight-A student. In karate, she ascended to the rank of black belt. In soccer, the sport she has been playing longest, she became The Sun's Carroll County Player of the Year as a midfielder last fall.

And as a distance runner in track, a sport she entered in middle school simply to keep in shape between seasons, she has been The Sun's Indoor Track Performer of the Year each of the past two winters, and recently walked away with county, conference, regional and Class 2A-1A state indoor titles in the 1,600 meters.

Falcons indoor track coach Paul Burnside said that what makes Hertsch such a uniquely talented athlete is the success she enjoys despite participating in each sport for only a small portion of the year.

"When you look at a Katie Hertsch who has the successes that she has, and then realize that from freshman year to senior year she's been a part-time athlete in the sport of track and field, I think that's something special," he said.

It's lacrosse where she may wind up making her biggest impact.

Though she considered several offers from smaller schools to play both soccer and lacrosse, she ultimately decided to focus on the latter after picking Ohio over a list of colleges that included UMBC, Towson and William & Mary.

Hertsch said she was attracted to the school by its "feeling of home." That's understandable, considering the Bobcats feature a roster full of Baltimore-area players, including five from Carroll County. They also have assistant coach Jess Roguski, a former standout at Liberty under current Winters Mill coach Courtney Vaughn.

It was Roguski, in fact, who primarily recruited Hertsch.

"She's one of those players who is going to come in and challenge some of our [current] players right away," said Roguski, Carroll County's Player of the Year in 2000 and a former second-team All-American at Vanderbilt. "Her level of intensity is just awesome to watch on the field. You always want to have someone come in and make a difference on your team, and she is going to make a difference."

Perhaps the biggest difference, said Roguski, could be late in games, when Hertsch's endurance from distance running comes into play.

"With some great players, endurance is where they lack," Roguski said. "Katie Hertsch is one of those kids who already has good decision-making and is very intense, but being able to go at 100 percent in the last 10 minutes of the game or in overtime gives her a complete advantage. To be able to sustain that energy just puts her at another level."

As much as the physical ability, Vaughn praised Hertsch's intelligence and propensity to make smart decisions on the field.

After Hertsch's early success on the track, Vaughn feared that her defensive wiz might eschew lacrosse in favor of a full-time pursuit of track and field.

These days, however, Vaughn said it's clear that lacrosse has become Hertsch's "passion." Now, she'd like to see her show off her speed even more by taking more balls to the goal.

"I'd like to see her turn it on more," Vaughn said. "She has it, but I think she's just a really unselfish person - a team player."

Maybe that's simply because she has played on so many teams over the years.

Hertsch said she grew up as a "tomboy," constantly hanging around her older brother Gary and his friends. "I think that definitely influenced how I became involved in sports and gave me a competitive edge," she said.

Her parents, Steven and Joyce, started her in soccer at 5, and it wasn't long before her competitive spirit began to take over.

"She never played with dolls when she was a little girl. She always liked athletics," said Steven Hertsch, a 1969 graduate of Milford Mill who wrestled and ran cross country in high school.

In addition to her primary sports, Hertsch also spent time in the past playing basketball and swimming competitively. Since entering Winters Mill, she has played the maximum three sports each school year.

"I've never not played a sport, so it's just always been a passion for me," she said. "If I'm not doing something, it just doesn't feel right, so I always have to do some sort of physical activity every day."

Something you're not likely to see her doing is boasting. Hertsch is known for going about her business with a humble attitude that endears her to teammates and coaches alike.

"I think in some cases her competitiveness is maybe more for herself than really to make any accomplishments for anyone else's eyes," Burnside said. "When we as coaches and the other athletes celebrate some of her outstanding achievements, she almost tries to shirk away from that limelight."

Perhaps that's what makes her so perfect for the role of defender. When she performs her job well, many fans may not even notice.

"She just quietly goes about her business," said Vaughn.

The business of being the best.

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