Julia Wolff has imagined herself as an attorney, orthopedic surgeon and geneticist. Lately she can see herself pursuing a career as a coroner.
“It’s biology, medical school, helping people find closure,” Wolff said. “It’s the perfect mixture of things I love to do.”
A senior three-sport athlete at Crossroads College Prep, there was one role Wolff never envisioned for herself — team captain.
Bob Beatrice couldn’t imagine her as anything else.
The Crossroads athletic director as well as its volleyball, boys basketball and baseball coach, Beatrice saw something in Wolff before she saw it in herself.
“I knew when she was in middle school that she’d be a captain in one if not all three sports, which she ended up being basically,” Beatrice said. “She has an unbelievable work ethic, great leadership skills in the locker room and great leadership on the court.”
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Crossroads’ selection as its 2022 Post-Dispatch Scholar Athlete, Wolff never figured she was captain material because she was never the best player on her volleyball, basketball or soccer teams.
“He said, ‘It’s not because of your skill. It’s because you know how to bring people together.’ That was the mentality I had going into it,” Wolff said. “I’m going to be the one to help rally people together and make us one cohesive group.”
Beatrice looked at the whole of Wolff’s character and personality and was impressed.
“She is always there. She’s incredibly dependable. She’s there for her teammates,” Beatrice said. “All these things together make a captain. An easy choice from day one.”
Wolff was an easy choice for Beatrice, but there are few choices for Wolff that come easy. There are times finding the right outfit for the next day is a chore. Wolff, 18, has long wrestled with making decisions.
“It’s why I play three sports,” she said with a laugh.
Finding the right college to continue her education was excruciating. It got so tough that when the University of Chicago, by far and away her No. 1 choice, did not accept her Wolff was actually relieved.
“At some point, I wished some of my top schools denied me because it would have been easier,” Wolff said. “It was a really hard decision to make.”
When you’re picking through the likes of Colgate University, Macalester College, Reed College and Gaucher College, it’s understandably tough. It only got harder when Vassar College informed Wolff in late March she’d been accepted. It wasn’t until mid-April that Wolff finally made her call and picked Vassar over Colgate.
“I had a lot of indecision, but I think once I made the choice it felt right,” Wolff said.
Wolff brought the tough choice upon herself by maximizing as many opportunities as she could at Crossroads. Her academic course load has been rigorous and chock full of advanced placement classes over the last two years, including world history, United States history, language and composition, literature and composition, calculus, statistics, psychology and government. Though they are college-level courses, Wolff maintained straight A’s.
The topics she enjoys learning about are wide and vast. Her favorite subject is history because she has a fascination with how interconnected the world is and why things are the way they are.
“Everything is connected to each other and I love that,” Wolff said.
She’s had a love-hate relationship with math in the past. In fifth grade she hated it. In sixth grade she had a breakthrough and math suddenly made sense. It’s what she credits with catapulting her love of learning to new heights.
“After that point, I realized that if I put effort into everything I did I would see results,” Wolff said. “I just dedicated myself. Every time I went to class I was going to listen, I’m going to take notes, I’m going to make sure I know it.”
Calculus has recently thrown a wrench in her cozy relationship with math. She’s made peace with the fact that by pursuing a biology degree, calculus will be part of the equation.
“Calculus has brought my level of pride down a little bit,” she said. “I don’t feel as sure about it as I did last year, but I still love it.”
Biology became Wolff’s subject du jour after the genetics unit as a junior. She was captivated by all the things that happen on a microscopic level just for people to exist every day.
“Being able to understand how my body works, how I’m living, how I’m doing and functioning. All these things you don’t think about,” Wolff said. “You don’t think about cellular respiration on a daily basis.
"I just think it’s wild we know all that and we’re still learning. It’s the craziest thing ever.”
Her extracurricular activities include writing a one-act play with the theatre club, tutoring underclassmen and being a member of student council.
Wolff did all of this while playing three sports that required after-school practice or games every day.
“It takes a lot of late nights,” Wolff said. “Getting back from a soccer game and doing homework is never fun. I am known to drink a Dr Pepper or two to keep myself awake.”
Of all the sports, soccer is the one she’s played the longest. She started in kindergarten and even joined a club team in fourth grade because she wanted to improve her skills. She picked up volleyball and basketball when she arrived at Crossroads and has grown to love them.
So much so that when St. Louis City restricted schools to limited practices and no games in the early fall of 2020 to try to limit the spread of COVID-19, Wolff was in the gym at every opportunity.
“Even at the very beginning of the pandemic I had conditioning stuff (at Crossroads) where I had to cap the number, space them out and they’re wearing masks, she was one that was here every session,” Beatrice said. “She’d be the first one to sign up or her sister. They’d be here for every conditioning even though they didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel (for the season to start). That’s the kind of kid she is.”
Wolff’s dedication never wavered despite knowing full well wins would be hard to come by at Crossroads. The Current are relatively competitive in volleyball, but the basketball and soccer teams have taken more than their fair share of lumps in Wolff’s time. Yet she still stepped onto the court or the pitch and gave everything she had.
“When you’re on a team and you know you’re not going to win very many games, I had to change my mindset,” Wolff said. “I’m not going out there to have a flawless record. I’m going out there to show my willpower, my perseverance and my care for the other people on my team, that I’m going to show up for them no matter what happens.”
It’s the kind of thing a captain would say.