Grover Levy can’t help but chuckle when he sees the 2007 Ford F350 roll into the Battle Ground Academy parking lot.
“It’s huge,” he said, “It’s funny to watch. This big truck drives up, and little Mary gets out of it.”
If anyone needs all the room an oversized pickup truck affords, it is “little” Mary, whose athletic ability and competitive nature far exceed her 5-foot-6 frame, not to mention require a lot of equipment.
Mary Hannah Winstead plays five sports and has throughout her high school career. It’s a major juggling act but one she relishes as she nears the midpoint of her senior year.
Basketball follows the fall sports, soccer and golf. After that comes track and field along with trap and skeet shooting.
“I love the competition and all the activity,” said Winstead, a guard and vocal leader for the basketball team, which hosts Franklin Road Academy on Monday. “I want to be the best at everything I do. If I run a certain time in track, I want to make it faster. There is always room to improve.”
Winstead’s zest for competition comes naturally.
Her father Kurt played football, basketball and ran track at Appalachian State and then Centre College in Kentucky. Her sister, Bridget, played soccer and basketball. And the family lives almost literally on a golf course, right by hole No. 17 at Temple Hills in Franklin.
“I am definitely the tomboy of the family, way ahead of Bridget,’’ she said, laughing. “I just love to be active. When I was little, I remember going to Bridget’s soccer game, watching the players kick the ball around in the huddle right before a game. I knew I wanted to be a part of that.”
She took golf lessons early but later fell in love with soccer and joined a travel team when she was 12.
Her main focus always is the start of basketball.
“Mary Hannah is an old-school, throwback type of athlete,” Levy, BGA’s girls basketball coach, said. “She plays whatever is in season and just absolutely loves to compete. Her ability to play five sports while maintaining her GPA [a weighted 4.01] and active social life is unparalleled in my 19 years of teaching and coaching.”
Predictably, she does more than one thing to help her teams win.
“Mary impacts us on the court with her ability to score, distribute and handle the ball, and defend,’’ Levy says. “But her calming presence and encouraging spirit figure even more into her success.
“She is one of those players who makes everyone around her better.”
Known as ‘M.H.’ to whatever teammates she’s with at a given moment, she started on the soccer team as an eighth-grader in 2007 when the Wildcats won the Division II state championship, an achievement she still considers the highlight of her high school athletics career. That team returned to the state tournament each of the past two years but did not go further than the semifinals.
“She will be very hard to replace,” soccer coach Jan Morrissey said. “She’s someone I call a utility player as a compliment. She can play any position on the field, midfielder, outside midfielder, defender. I think she’d be a good goalie if she played there. She’s very hard-nosed.
“It’s not just her playing ability, but her all-out enthusiasm in everything she does and how well she adapts to the whole student body that makes her special.”
That trait is particularly evident in track and field, where she considers the relays — she runs on the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 — her favorite events “because they are all about team.”
She also pole vaults and has experience in the pentathlon, a single event that tests competitors in five different disciplines.
Winstead is an avid hunter as well and claims her share of ducks and deer among her bounty. Her interest in that regard began during a hunting trip with her father in Arkansas.
That, of course, leads to her participation in skeet and trap shooting, a low-profile sport on the high school landscape.
“My father always stressed on me to compete in whatever I wanted to,” she said. “He never pressured me toward competing in anything I didn’t want to do.”
When the school year begins in August, Winstead dives in head first, playing both golf and soccer. She appreciates the flexibility her coaches have given her when conflicts inevitably occur.
“When there was a golf match and soccer match scheduled the same day, I would choose soccer, because it’s more of a team sport in which I can have more influence on with my teammates,” she said. “In golf, you’re more on your own. The coaches have been great in working with me through conflicts.”
After basketball season, she moves right into track and field.
“Budgeting my time is very important,” she said.
Soon it will be time to pick a college.
She has narrowed her choices to three — Centre, Birmingham Southern and Washington and Lee. If she goes to Centre, she and her sister will be teammates again for one season.
“That won’t necessarily factor into the decision,” she said. “But certainly, it would be special to play with her once more.”
First, though, there are more games — in multiple sports — to be played before she wraps up her high school career.
“Basketball [is my favorite], then soccer a close second,” Winstead said. “I like soccer because it gets physical, and that’s how I like to play. Track and field is third, with golf and skeet shooting right after.
“Most importantly, I’m having fun in every sport.”