During Centereach field hockey practices in the late 1970s, coach Nancy Cole often would notice a young girl in the distance, peering in through the chain-link fence.
That was Tracey Fuchs. She was in middle school then, and rules at the time precluded an early promotion to varsity.
"So I would ride my bike up there all the time and watch," Fuchs said, "then go home and practice all the drills they did."
When she finally got her chance as a ninth-grader, all Fuchs did was begin one of the greatest careers in the sport's history. With a verse-long list of awards and accomplishments, Fuchs was voted into the USA Field Hockey Hall of Fame last month. The Centereach native will be among seven inductees honored in a June 28 ceremony in Lancaster, Pa.
"It's a tremendous honor," said Fuchs, 47, who coaches the Northwestern field hockey team. "It's very exciting and humbling for me."
But in the words of Cole: "It's been a long time coming."
The dynamic forward led Centereach to three New York championships from 1981-83 and set state records for goals in a season (82), career (171) and consecutive games (51). She went on to star at UConn, winning a national title and a Player of the Year award, in addition to being named All-American three times.
Fuchs was selected to Team USA at age 20 and became an icon in the sport as a 17-year member of the national team. She was a two-time Olympian, competed in four World Cups and twice was named Player of the Year.
"I couldn't be happier or more proud of someone," said Cole, whose 578 victories are a state field hockey record. "When people ask me who the best player I've coached was, Tracey comes to mind immediately. She was the total package of skill, athleticism, smarts and determination."
Fuchs honed her skills early in a household with three sisters -- Lauren, Dana and Jill -- who each excelled at field hockey. And she developed her toughness competing in street hockey games against neighborhood boys long before taking the field for Centereach.
"I just loved to compete, and that's what drove me in everything," she said. "If I could, I would've played forever."
A Hall of Fame induction will suffice, though. Her legacy will be preserved forever.