Holly Gambrell, on her way in to watch her brother play for Linganore High School’s football team when she was in sixth grade, noticed a peculiar activity on an adjacent field. Several girls were using sticks to push a ball around the grass.
“I was like, ‘Oh, that looks really cool. Dad, what is that?’” said Gambrell, now a Linganore junior. “He was like, ‘Oh, that’s field hockey.’”
Once inside the football stadium, Gambrell climbed to the top of the bleachers to see more of the sport that looked nothing like basketball or softball, the sports she already played. Field hockey seemed new, exotic and fun, and Gambrell wanted to play. If it were a few years later, she would’ve added field hockey to the bucket list she began assembling on her computer in 10th grade — a catalogue activities she wants to do before she kicks the bucket.
Sure enough, Gambrell joined the field hockey team as a freshman, and having stuck with basketball and softball, that makes her a three-sport athlete. She also hasn’t lost the adventure-seeking attitude, as her bucket list has swelled to about 300 items.
She’s already crossed out a few items, like learning chess, which she did playing with her dad each night last summer. But plenty of challenges — including yoga surfing, flying a plane, hang-gliding and skydiving — await the self-described adrenaline junkie.
As does choosing a college. Gambrell favors Wake Forest, North Carolina and Mercer (Ga.), in part, because of their Southern locations.
“There’s just something about the culture down there that just draws me in,” Gambrell said. "It’s so friendly and inviting — and the food’s better down there.”
In addition to the availability of grits smothered in butter and cheese, the South offers a chance to live near most of her family. Plus, Gambrell said she finds the culture just so welcoming.
“Every single person that you meet down there is so nice, and they’re just not in a rush,” she said. “And just strangers will come up to you and have conversations, and everyone is smiling and happy to talk to you. And they’re just, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ ‘No, ma’am.’ They’re so polite, and they will do anything for you — no matter if you’re a stranger or a family member. I just feel like, down South, a lot of people will put others first before they put themselves first.
“I think there’s a lot of good people up in Maryland, too, but I just think people in Maryland are little more reserved than people down South are.”
Even reserved Marylanders question Gambrell about her summer plans.
“Everyone will be like, ‘Oh, Holly, what are you doing now that softball is over?’” said Gambrell, who helped the Linganore softball team to Saturday’s 3A state title game, where the Lancers lost 10-0 to Northern (Calvert County).
Well, there’s field hockey preparation, which will take up a bulk of her summer. But, somehow, Gambrell has avoided spreading herself too thin.
She impressed Linganore softball coach Andrea Poffinberger by hitting .439 with five home runs this season despite not playing summer ball last year. Instead, she frequently went to the batting cages on her own time.
“That speaks highly of her and her dedication and commitment to softball,” Poffinberger said.
So how does someone who embraces a Southern lifestyle make that work with all her commitments?
“I love being around a laid-back environment, because I’m such a busy person, because that just keeps me relaxed instead of stressed out,” Gambrell said. “On the other hand, I like being busy, because if I sit around for too long, I just feel like I’m wasting time. I’m very much, ‘Live life to the fullest every day.’”