AN APPRECIATION

Beth Nelson, sweeper, Woodbridge (Va.)

One in an occasional series.

By Al Mattei

Founder, TopOfTheCircle.com

Beth Nelson will show you the scars.

There are some red scrapes on one leg, even redder punctures on the other thigh, and a laceration or two that are the remnants of an auto accident in the summer of 1998 which all but robbed her of her junior year of field hockey.

She will show you all of the scars except one -- the one bone-deep scrape which, by some miracle, bypassed all of the major structural components of her knee and is, in essence, a flesh wound.

It is a wound, however, which has to be treated daily. One of her parents had to transport her to Bethesda, Md. every morning for examination -- a 50-minute trip under the best of circumstances.

"I get up at 5:30 every morning," she says. "I don't miss a day."

Nelson is actually somewhat used to this. Her father is a high-ranking naval officer now working out of the Pentagon, and discipline is part of the daily routine which brings her out of her sleep and into a car to battle the Washington Beltway every single day before school.

But it was when Nelson's father was stationed in Brunswick, Maine, when she took up the game of field hockey. In seventh grade, she was on the varsity, using her speed on the forward line, and her savvy as a back and midfield when warranted.

"They took the game really seriously back there," she recalls. "I went to practice -- and I think I got really lucky -- and they wanted me to be on varsity."

Nelson realizes that she will have more varsity seasons than most college prospects, despite having to sit out much of the 1998 season for Woodbridge. However, that can't take away the hurt of what she had to go through.

She and three friends had set out from suburban Washington for a beach trip when the driver of the car fell asleep at the wheel, struck a guardrail, and flipped down a 30-foot embankment.

"It's been really difficult dealing with all of this," she says, "because I want to play in college so badly."

But with her heart and mind working towards that goal, she may be back sooner than anyone thought.

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