NETHER PROVIDENCE — It's 6 a.m. on a late August morning.
Most soon-to-be high school seniors might be sleeping in, enjoying the final few precious hours of summer freedom. Allie Wilson isn't among that crowd.
Instead, Wilson is busy juggling a part-time lifeguarding job, supplementing soccer two-a-days with cross country practice, and all the while trying to do everything else required from a high school senior to position herself for the academic challenge lying ahead.
There aren't many people who could do what Wilson did this fall: accomplish such a daunting schedule with Wilson's degree of success, not to mention a perpetual smile on her face.
However difficult the daily agenda may have been for the Strath Haven senior, far more difficult was the prospect of having to choose between two sporting loves: the soccer team she's gown up with and the cross country program that prepares her for a stellar career on the track, in high school and college.
"I never thought to drop either one,' Wilson said. "I knew coming in that it would be tough and that I would have to work really hard. I got used to it. It was more fun than anything, I think, and I was happy that I could experience some cross country before going onto college and I could still continue to finish out my soccer season.'
On the soccer pitch, Wilson was hands down the best defender in Delaware County and the most valuable player on a Strath Haven team that repeated as Central League champions and came within a whisker of PIAA qualification. For that, Wilson is the 2013 Daily Times Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
Wilson is joined on the All-Delco team by Strath Haven teammates Sophie Murphy and Kristen Miller, Haverford's Laura Slavich and Kelly Rogers, Garnet Valley's Haley Warden, Marple Newtown's Deirdre Bradley, the Agnes Irwin duo of Hannah Keating and Kirstin Burnetta, Episcopal Academy's Meredith Manley, Notre Dame's Phoebe McClernon and Delco Christian's Julia Kyne.
They're the second All-Delco nods for Murphy, Miller, Wilson and Manley. Seniors predominate, comprising two-thirds of the team, which also includes three sophomores (Burnetta, Keating and McClernon) and a junior in Kyne. The All-Delco team is selected in consultation with area coaches.
Seeing the amount of ground Wilson covers on the soccer field, it's easy to see the interplay with her track background. Wilson, who is exploring a number of Division I track offers, is a two-time All-Delco for her middle-distance prowess. She joined fellow soccer players Miller and Jamie Kenney in winning the 4x400 at Penn Relays last year, while also taking part in the 4x800 that won the District One Class AAA championship and finished fourth at the PIAA meet. Wilson was the Delco champ in the 800.
Wilson was also a big part of the 2012 District One Champion Strath Haven soccer team, anchoring the defense of a team that gave up just five goals in 22 matches. With obvious ability on both fronts, it came down to Wilson making it work with cross country coach Bill Coren and soccer coach Gino Miraglia this season.
"Once school started, I unfortunately couldn't go to cross country most days, so I just had to run before or after (soccer) practice and then I would get workouts from Coach Coren and he would stay and do them with me on Sundays or whenever I could,' Wilson said. "Coach Miraglia and Coach Coren were both really reasonable about me missing practice or whatever to make it work.'
"If there was ever a big game or something, she didn't go to their practice,' said Miraglia, who has worked a similar arrangement several times over the years, including for Wilson's All-Delco sister, Val. "Soccer was her main sport if there was any conflict. After our practice, she would go right to cross country, and I always checked in on her to make sure she wasn't getting overly tired.'
The flexibility paid off for both coaches. In cross country, Wilson led the Panthers to a Delco title, a race in which Wilson placed seventh. Strath Haven took fourth place at the District One Class AAA meet, Wilson crossing the line 36th, and seventh at the PIAA Championships, where Wilson was 67th overall.
Somehow, she was even better on the soccer field. For a team that replaced an All-Delco goalkeeper (Krissy Welsh) with a sophomore getting her first varsity minutes (Katie Fisher) and suffered through injuries on a rebuilt backline, the Panthers were almost as defensively stout as last year. They allowed just 11 goals — only seven before capitulating four to eventual PIAA Class AAA runner-up Spring-Ford in District One's fifth-place game. That loss to Spring-Ford in the season finale Oct. 31 represented the first goals the Panthers had given up in October, ending a string of 10 straight shutouts.
The pressure on the defense, absent the high-scoring attack that propelled the 2012 side, was magnified this season. But Wilson, playing with a new central defense partner in Kira Venturini, rose to the occasion.
"I was really proud of my defense and my team,' Wilson said. "Katie obviously as a sophomore, she really stepped it up for us, and I think everyone had a large part in contributing to keeping that number low. Even though it might have been a little more than last year, I don't think we gave away any goals. ... At the same time, they were picking me up too, so (Kira and Katie) definitely both had what I would consider breakout years, and I was just really happy to see how well we worked together once we got into the season. I guess I was kind of worried coming into the season, and they didn't let me down at all.'
Wilson also became a weapon on offense, contributing four assists with her pinpoint crossing ability. As the primary free- and corner-kick taker, Wilson's connections to Haven's taller players like Carly Glassford and Ami Iannello helped kick-start an offense looking for a spark.
It all could've come crashing down on Wilson and the Panthers, though. In warmups before their Sept. 16 game at Springfield, Wilson was hit awkwardly with a ball.
"Sophie kicked the ball at me and I was crying, and everyone thought I was overreacting and I was like, ' oh I'm overreacting,'' Wilson said. "I saw their trainer, and he said it I had just a bruise, so I was like, OK. It continued to hurt for a while when I would do anything, like pick up my homework or anything. I told my mom about it, that it goes away and that it's not a big deal and that I'm just overreacting. And it hurt for two more weeks before I actually went to the doctor.'
When she finally got it checked out, the result was a broken arm that required a hard cast — bright pink, of course, befitting Wilson's effusive personality on the field. It was barely an obstacle.
"I kind of got scared at first because I wasn't sure how serious it was, but I just had to wear a cast for a couple of weeks, so it wasn't that bad,' Wilson said. "I just kind of ignored it.'
With that, she was able to enjoy the ride on a team with which she's won three straight Central League titles.
"Soccer has been a part of my life for so long, and I've been doing it with the same girls since second grade and with the same coach since seventh grade, so we've really created more of a family than a team,' Wilson said. "We never have a day that goes by that we aren't enjoying playing together, and I couldn't be more grateful for the people I've had the chance to do this with.'
For all of the program's success, you can bet Strath Haven is just as grateful to have had Wilson.