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Briana Scurry is known as one of the best professional female goalkeepers to ever step foot on the soccer field.

As a former member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, she helped propel the team to two Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004 and a World Cup championship in 1999, in which she made an incredible shootout save to defeat China in front of over 90,000 screaming fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Scurry’s ability to protect the goal and the national team’s success during that span led to a huge boost of women’s soccer fans and inspired millions around the world.

Scurry, a native of Minneapolis, now inspires many through motivational speaking. And Thursday, she came to St. Mary’s County to share her story at the 21st century end of the school year picnic at Lexington Park Elementary School.

Scurry, who did not start playing soccer until the age of 12, gave a brief speech to the children on turning their dreams into reality.

“I didn’t even touch a soccer ball until I was 12 and look what it got me, two Olympic gold medals and a silver medal [in 2000],” Scurry said during the speech. “If it wasn’t for my parents there to support me, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you right now. It’s all about making the right choices and taking advantage of your opportunities.”

Soccer in the Park, which participated in the event, is a free program that uses soccer as a tool to promote healthy lifestyles and personal development for the children of St. Mary’s County, particularly those children who don’t have the resources to participate in organized sports or activities.

Joshua Crowder, the founder of Soccer in the Park, met Scurry at a U.S. Soccer Foundation Urban Symposium in early May and then stayed in contact with her to take a trip to Southern Maryland.

“It is always good for the kids to have an option and a choice, and I think this program is great for them. This definitely teaches them life lessons and teamwork,” Scurry said.

Following the motivational message, Scurry interacted with the children and their parents, signed autographs and took pictures.

The 15-Under Furies, a girls travel soccer team based out of St. Mary’s, was also in attendance and was in awe when they met the Olympian.

“It was honestly really cool to meet her and a couple years ago I met [2012 FIFA World Player of the Year] Abby Wambach,” said Brenna Kelly, a member of the Furies. “Living in St. Mary’s it is so awesome that [former] pro players come down here and get involved in the community.”

Scurry, a 1993 graduate of the University of Massachusetts, was the top keeper in the country before she turned pro. Thursday, she talked about following dreams and working hard no matter what.

Jillian Carty, a freshman at Great Mills High School and player on the Furies said, “She was very inspiring and I’m motivated to become the best soccer player that I can be.”

Furies’ Hannah Woodworth was in amazement of meeting Scurry, who also played from 2001 to 2003 for the Atlanta Beat in the Women’s United Soccer Association.

“I’ve never met an Olympian, so to finally meet one down here in St. Mary’s is just great,” Woodworth said. “We all got to hold the gold medals today and they were very heavy.”

Sydney Davis, also a member of the Furies, was all smiles after taking part in the meet and greet with Scurry.

“It was amazing to meet her and it motivates me to play soccer and keep going,” said Davis. “I had never touched a gold medal before. This helps me face my challenges and I hope to one day inspire younger players when I get older.”

“Meeting Briana makes me want to do more with soccer,” said Madison Dunn, a Furies team member. “This will make me become a better person and a player in soccer. She gives hope to actually succeed in life for soccer and actually go to the Olympics and play.”

Scurry, who retired from pro soccer in 2010 due to a head injury and concussions, had a career total of 173 international appearances with 71 career shutouts.

“I don’t even play soccer for fun anymore. I enjoy playing softball and basketball,” Scurry said. “My focus is to inspire other young players on and off the field.”

ajmason@somdnews.com