Originally created 04/23/04

Sullivan is near-perfect example



If senior superlatives were voted on from every high school in the Augusta area, the depth of young people would invite some serious head scratching.

One choice would be easy. Best all-around female would have to go to Aquinas' Erin Sullivan

Sullivan recently accepted a scholarship to play soccer at South Carolina next fall. She's the likely salutatorian of her senior class and half of the Irish boys soccer team has tried to woo her for a date, even buttering up her teammates to put in a good word.

"Everyone seems to be drawn to her," Aquinas coach Tommy Garcia said. "She has charisma. Lots of young people have that. Except most go out of their way to display it. Popular is not even an effort for her. It's natural."

Which is like the skill she's honed since she was five years old at YMCA soccer school. Sullivan has 30 goals and 15 assists this year. She has 172 goals and 102 assists in her prep career.

But that skill is just why her name makes the sports section. It encompasses Sullivan the same way Caddyshack defines golf movies.

"Soccer doesn't define me," Sullivan said. "School doesn't define me. It's great, but I know in a year none of this will matter. MVP of the soccer team and high school grades won't help me out. My future depends on where I am going, not what I have done."

Yet Sullivan's present is mighty impressive. The next paper, project or assignment she hands in late will be her first.

"Erin's probably the best player on our team but she will do anything the coach says without a word," said Meghan Claiborne, a teammate and lifelong friend. "Coach Garcia could tell her to run three miles and give no reason. Erin would take off."

SULLIVAN MAINTAINS A 4.3 grade-point average besides playing for Aquinas and keeping in stride with her club team. The norm is two to three hours a night for homework after practice is over. She's as disciplined in her Catholic faith, perhaps even more so, as she is in her commitments to soccer and school.

"Before you meet her you'd look at her and be intimidated," Claiborne said. "But she deserves every accomplishment. You can't be jealous of somebody who gets what they want because they work hard."

Sullivan's all-around efforts include a little maid duty at her household. Her teammates shared a story of how the 5-foot-4 dynamo cleans the house "like a slave" and has dusted pine straw off her roof for part of her weekly $10 allowance.

"Low maintenance child raising or parenting on auto-pilot would describe it," said Al Sullivan, Erin's father. "Erin drives herself a lot farther than her mother and I ever would. Actually, I find myself trying to coax herself to relax a bit with the books and practices."

Some gifted young people choose to let athletics carry them through hallways. Others decide sports are for only a select few. Sullivan chooses to do it all.

"It's not like my parents are demanding," Sullivan said. "I grew up wanting to please them because they gave me such a good life."

THERE ARE A few flaws to the gem. Jared Sullivan, Erin's older brother, has the unique role of keeping her grounded.

"My brother humiliates me all the time," Sullivan said. "He like to call me 'St. Erin that never does anything wrong'. Believe me, I have my own moments."

Credit Irish teammates Claiborne, Caroline Barrett and Mary Brooke Quarles with an off-the-field assist for sharing their good friend's imperfections.

Sullivan stays in soccer shape despite bags of Oreos for lunch. Sullivan is not a morning person and is scared to death of clowns.

And Barrett, who's off to Memphis next fall on her own soccer scholarship, scores with an impressive recollection.

"Erin tried to cook macaroni about two years ago," Barrett said. "You know. The 1-2-3 Easy Mac stuff with just three directions. Erin didn't put the water in the bowl and she burned it all. Everything. The whole house just reeked of burnt macaroni."

What parent or coach wouldn't settle for only a little burnt macaroni every now and then.

Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or jeff.sentell@augustachronicle.com.