Already an all-star in the gym and on the field, New Oxford sophomore Kaelyn Long discovered a new talent this season: how to do homework and change uniforms in a moving vehicle.
After being named to the YAIAA coaches' Division I field hockey all-star team in the fall, Long spent the winter sports season juggling two sports — basketball and indoor field hockey, making the postseason, and winning a national title.
She started on New Oxford's basketball team, scoring a team-high 10.9 points per game while helping lead the Colonials to 17 wins and a district playoff appearance where they defeated Harrisburg before falling to eventual district champion Cumberland Valley.
When she wasn't manning the lane on the court, she was driving — or at least riding while her parents drove — to Harrisburg, where she was a key member on the PA Mavericks' club field hockey team that won an indoor national title in one division and was named co-champs in another.
That's three months, two sports, one athlete, one national title and a lot of miles traveled. Miles that included trips to California and Florida for national field hockey tournaments and back-and-forth trips between Harrisburg and New Oxford to practice both sports, sometimes on the same day.
That's why learning to do homework in the car came in handy.
"The long car rides and multi-tasking were the most challenging part, but being up on the podium and getting the medal after all the hard work was so rewarding and worth it all," Long said. "And coming from a smaller school, to have a medal and win on that stage was the best part."
In order to reach those heights and bring home a medal, Long would have to leave basketball practice at New Oxford an hour early on most nights, hop in the car to make the hour trip to Harrisburg, then participate in the last hour or two of field hockey practice.
The practice was no walk in the park, either. The Mavericks are a well-known, high-level club team. The girls who start alongside Long are some of the best players in the country, said Chelton Hunter who is in his seventh season coaching the Mavericks club team of 130 girls. Many of them already have full-ride scholarship offers to major universities.
"The four girls ranked above her will probably go anywhere they want in the country, and she (Long) fits right in," Hunter added. "Her team hasn't lost a game all season. I've never seen that in all my years."
While Hunter and New Oxford girls' basketball coach Mike Sanders could've understandably pulled Long in their own directions to help their own teams, both were instead understanding and willing to compromise after discussions with Long, she said.
"I'm a little biased because I'm an elementary school principal, but I understand when it comes to missing practice for school-related activities," Hunter said. "The key is for both coaching staffs is to understand and for Long to balance the time to maintain that skill level. It takes a lot of dedication on her part to put in the time even when there isn't much time available."
With help from her family, Long was able to keep a focus on academics, as well. The 15-year-old also credits her parents for doing all the driving and keeping her even-keeled.
"The last few months, I've been constantly going full force," she said. "And my parents have been keeping me constantly focused on my future and helping me now. I couldn't have done it without them."
Now that both basketball and indoor field hockey seasons are over, will Long take a break? No. She says there's no such thing as an offseason.
"I'll give it about a week to all settle in," she said with a laugh. "Then I'll start doing CrossFit training to get better at being faster and stronger for next season."
Looking forward, Long, who has been playing field hockey since the sixth grade, hopes to play in college in a few years.
"Ever since I got that hockey stick in my hand, I knew I wanted to do that and go to college for it," she said. "I'm very passionate about the sport."
Hunter certainly thinks Long has a chance to do that one day.
"She's tall, athletic and dedicated," Hunter said of Long, who he said also brings a certain grit and determination. "The sky is the limit for her. We see her potential and she sees it. We just have to tap into that."