Centreville senior Jenna Richmond is a globetrotting soccer phenom
Jenna Richmond's Facebook profile picture shows her and a group of smiling teenage girls in U.S. soccer jerseys huddled around international soccer heartthrob David Beckham.
Richmond's eyes widen when she tells the story about Beckham strolling through Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., where she and her under-20 national pool teammates were stretching before a practice.
"My body literally went into shock," said Richmond, a Centreville senior. "I couldn't breathe."
Being star-struck around soccer stars is something Richmond will likely get over -- if she hasn't already. The consensus No. 1 recruit in the country and a member of the under-20 women's national team, the 18-year-old midfielder has spent the past four years waking up in hotel rooms as far away as New Zealand, Spain, Germany and Brazil as she lives a soccer dream that her teenage friends couldn't fathom.
"Most high school kids are trying to win regionals and then go on to see if they can win a state tournament," said Mike Calabretta, an assistant with the Georgetown women's team and Richmond's McLean MPS club coach. "She's saying, 'How do I make a World Cup spot?' "
On Saturday, Richmond will head to California for a 16-day training camp with the national team that could validate the sacrifices she has made since embarking on a soccer journey that has taken her from a player widely regarded as a 12-year-old phenom to local legend.
It is her sixth trip like this since January, but it's the most important one as the national pool roster gets shaved from 24 players to the final 21 who will compete in this summer's FIFA under-20 World Cup in Germany.
"A lot of kids at school think I'm just on vacation," said Richmond, as a smile cracked her freckled face. "They don't understand that, no, I'm out there fighting for my spot."
The fear that her grip on a roster spot could loosen at any moment is what has kept Richmond flying on a solo mission that has required her to spend nearly 70 days away from home since January, miss more than 40 days of school and rack up more than 50,000 frequent flyer miles while sacrificing some staples of the typical high school experience.
"Prom is just one night," said Richmond, who missed last year's junior prom and will miss Centreville's senior prom on May 14. "There are more things out there."
Making the transition
When she arrives in California on Saturday, Richmond will shift from a self-described goofy kid to a focused adult -- one who views her soccer duties as work, rather than play.
Her days will be a blur of soccer, starting with a 7 a.m. wakeup call followed by two pressure-packed workout sessions, during which any mistake might elicit a ticket back home. Dinner and team meetings can make her day end as late as 10 p.m.