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Duluth's Tompoe views life, soccer with wide lens

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Tamaya Tompoe, a rising senior at Duluth High School, is an AP student from Liberia and a D-I soccer prospect.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Tamaya Tompoe, a rising senior at Duluth High School, is an AP student from Liberia and a D-I soccer prospect.

How she spends some of her free time slightly embarrasses Tamaya Tompoe.

"I don't do it all the time, but in my spare time, sometimes ...," she said, trailing off at first.

Tompoe enjoys shows on the Discovery Health Channel, especially "Untold Stories of the E.R." But she doesn't watch it completely for the trite sensationalism.

"I just watch all these health series shows. It is interesting, but it is also going to benefit me, so I know, whenever I get sick I can look at it as a resource," she said. "I know what are the symptoms for this particular disease or I know which doctor to go to."

Plus, she wants to pursue a career in medicine, so the shows are, to a degree, educational for Tompoe.

She's not reading the New England Journal of Medicine or Gray's Anatomy, but passively using free time to prepare for her future demonstrates Tompoe's thinking.

Her actions tend to the pragmatic over the visceral.

Tompoe is playing a long game.

To watch a well-played soccer match is to witness sports' interpretation of this concept. All sports have strategy, but soccer's is subtle to the Nth degree. Teams forfeit possessions, retreat, often, to the furthest end of the field. It's not a sprint for the whole match, it's the tortoise and the hare with a spotted ball.

A soccer player from age 7, Tompoe understands this instinctively. Her father, Winston, played on the Liberian national team and tells even his daughter he was not the best.

"He said that he wasn't the most skillful person, however he was very smart," Tompoe said. "He knew where to be at all times.

"He was always thinking on the field. Honestly, if you don't have the best skills but you have intelligence, you know how to score easily."

In both her career goals and her soccer game, Tompoe prepares but doesn't always vigorously attack. She waits for her chance, allows others to determine her choices.

Tompoe was born in Monrovia, Liberia, but moved to South Carolina before memories began to stick. Her lone token of her African heritage is a scar on her knee. She doesn't know how it happened, but knows it happened before she arrived in the U.S. She's never returned.

"I want to (visit), though, so I can meet some of my uncles," Tompoe said. "Most of my dad's side of my family lives in Liberia."

Tompoe enjoys extolling her father's talents. Her pride radiates. He played soccer well, started a business and, most of all, stays in shape.

And she emulates those traits. She is getting Division I college interest, has a career goal and gets antsy when idle. Unless of course, Discovery Health airs a medical marathon.

"I hate going two days without exercising," Tompoe said. "I don't have to come out to the field and do a bunch of soccer stuff, but just running or exercising."

But what her father taught her best, was to play soccer and to live her life with a big goal in mind. Through him, she learned when to press, when to wait and how to tell the difference.

"He taught me how to really think the game like that," she said.

By the time Tompoe graduates next year, she plans to have six Advanced Placement class credits to go with her high-three GPA. In soccer, whether playing forward or outside midfielder, Tompoe endlessly eyes things for her advantage. An over-running defender is an AP class is Untold Stories of the E.R. In each lays an angle best suited for Tompoe to exploit.

"You just have to be able to read the play. Soccer is all about thinking and knowing what is going to happen next," Tompoe said. "Being a visionary."

Intuitively, Tompoe knows those rules apply beyond the pitch.