Kristin Folkl had been getting autograph requests from other girls for some three years now, but this was a first: A 13-year-old boy was asking for her signature.
"She can dunk it?" asked Paul Martin, a starstruck eighth-grader from Chicago, who had joined some 2,000 other spectators at DePaul's Alumni Hall to watch Kristin play. "What I wouldn't give to be her for just one day," he mused. Kristin, the 6'2" All-America forward and her St. Joseph's Academy team from St. Louis, ranked No. 7 in the country as of Sunday, were about to take on Chicago Washington, one of the best teams in Illinois, during a three-day event last month featuring midwestern girl powers.
Although St. Joseph's proceeded to romp past Chicago Washington 57-31, with Kristin rolling up 18 points and 14 rebounds, it wasn't a particularly easy game for her. Washington's own All-America. 6'3" Tangela Smith, blocked seven of Kristin's shots, and in the locker room after the game, Angel assistant coach Julie Goessling teased Kristin: "How'd you like that stuffing, turkey?"
"We don't usually get a lot of scouts and media at our games," Kristin explained to reporters, "so I guess I wanted to do better here. I know certain things are expected of me."
That kind of pressure is part of the package when you've led your team to three straight state championships and you're one of the most heralded high school athletes in the country. And Kristin certainly fits that description. She is not only a great basketball player, but also a two-time Mizuno volleyball Player of the Year, having led the St. Joseph's team to a 94-game winning streak and another four state titles in volleyball. Next year she will play both volleyball and basketball at Stanford, a perennial powerhouse in both sports.
The calls and letters from colleges had begun to pour into her St. Louis home following her sixth grade year. Once, as a high school freshman, she was on the phone with an assistant basketball coach from Stanford when her call-waiting signal beeped; a Stanford volleyball coach was on the other line.
Kristin first visited the Stanford campus when she was 13. "She came to basketball camp here the summer before her freshman year." says Stanford basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, who was in Europe at the time. "When I returned from Europe, all I heard about from the other coaches was this freshman from St. Louis who could start on a college team right now. I said. 'Guys, camp has made you delirious.' " Two summers later Kristin, who has a 29-inch vertical leap, was back at the camp, and VanDerveer saw her dunk.
Kristin has yet to do that in a game, but she did jam one for ESPN during a scholastic sports program in January. That was two weeks after she was given the Dial Award, a trophy given to the top male and female high school scholar-athletes in the country.
Last summer the straight-A student, who plans to major in marine biology at Stanford, made the 1993 U.S. volleyball B team, one of only a few high school players to do so. Says Kristin, "When I showed up for tryouts, the others wondered, 'What is she doing here?' " By the time the team left for its European tour, Kristin was a starter.
Right now, Kristin's not sure which sport she will focus on. ""I really like [both sports] equally," she says. "But if I have to choose, I will choose the one that offers the best opportunity."