While most 17-year-olds enjoy the usual high school activities, Marisa Cuadra, a fourth-year varsity field hockey goalkeeper at T.C. Williams, would rather learn about the humpback whale.

Cuadra, the Northern Region's best at her position, plans to devote her life to the study of humpback whales. In the meantime, she hopes to finish this season in the regional tournament and possibly play hockey at Old Dominion University, Maryland or Princeton while beginning her studies in oceanography.

After carrying the Titans to the regional tournament in her freshman and sophomore years and being chosen once as an all-region pick and twice as all-district, Cuadra proved herself last fall as the goalkeeper to get by in the Northern District.

"(Marisa) absolutely runs the defense," said Shawn Noel, T.C. Williams' coach. "Last year, and this year I haven't had to do a lot with defense. After four years playing under me, she knows what I want.

"She's real coachable. She listens to everything I say and analyzes it."

Cuadra credits her strong concentration during games as the key to her success.

"I block everything out. Sometimes I just react," said Cuadra. "Being a goalie is pretty much mental work. I don't think saving goals makes a good goalie. Technique makes a good goalie.

"I used to cry and mope around for a day (after a loss). Now I look at it as I am one goal smarter.

"I just see that ball. It's just me and that ball. I kind of like it when it's intense. It makes me concentrate harder."

Field hockey is an important, but not the only, activity in Cuadra's life. She is also on the Williams rowing crew, and every day she doesn't have a game she works at a clothing store, averaging 25 hours a week.

Cuadra is an honor roll student, with advanced placement English, calculus, physics, Russian III and oceanography among her classes.

Cuadra's eyes light up as she talks of the evils of society against nature and remarks that the Japanese and Russians are still slaughtering the humpback whale.

"I am fascinated by (the humpback whale). Everything about them. Their language; it's so beautiful. It's proven that they communicate," said Cuadra.

In spite of all her extracurricular activities, she doesn't consider herself a social person. She doesn't participate in the social events so dear to many of her peers.

"My good time and their good time is different," said Cuadra. "I like to walk and talk and dance. The team thinks I'm straight.

"I think I'd be a very depressed person if I didn't play. I wouldn't be as strong mentally if they (teammates) hadn't been around."

Cuadra's commitment to field hockey is serious. Just about everything she does, she looks at from a field hockey point of view. She doesn't feel as though she has given five seasons to hockey, but five years.

As the youngest of five, Cuadra was most influenced by her 19-year-old sister Marina, who also played field hockey for the Titans. Marina was responsible for directing Marisa away from soccer and toward hockey when she was in the seventh grade.

The 5-foot-5 Cuadra, half Colombian and half Nicaraguan, considers her family her main motivation. The Cuadras are close-knit and she wants to please them by being the best.