09/29/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT
Mary Ostrowski 18, lost the first basketball game she played with her Parkersburg, W.Va. high school girls' team. And that was about all. The 6'2" Ostrowski, who usually plays center, then led her Crusaderettes to a phenomenal 88-game winning streak, piled up 2,400 points herself and, as a senior last winter, was besieged by scores of college scouts as the top female high school player in the country. This spring she tried out for the U.S. Olympic team and was the only high school student to make it to the second cut. She was later invited to join the Junior Women's Select Team which recently returned from the Far East. This month she entered the University of Tennessee on a full athletic scholarship. Mary's father, Chester, an agent with Lumberman's Insurance Co., taught her to play basketball at their front yard hoop. For four years she rose at 6 a.m. to practice, a regimen her father says was hard on her younger brother and sister and may have caused Mary to "miss out on a lot of things personally. I don't know if she realizes the importance of that." Mary is now aiming for the 1984 Olympics and possibly pro basketball. Women's sports, she observes, "have grown so much because females are playing earlier and want to get better."
Billy Hsieh, 13, is the youngest life master in the history of contract bridge. Two months ago he achieved that cherished title and the gold membership card that signifies it by going over the required 300 master points at the Klondike Tournament in Edmonton, Canada. "It's sort of a trip to deal with someone his age," says tourney teammate and bridge champion Ron Andersen, 39, of his protégé. "There are so few children in the game." Billy just reckons, "It was one of my better tournaments."
Most serious players require eight to 10 years to reach life master status; Billy did it in four. He learned the game by kibitzing the lessons his older brother David, 16, got from their father, George Hsieh, a Chinese-born computer programming consultant and Billy's usual partner. Dad says it was sibling rivalry: "Billy never lets David do anything without learning it himself." Billy, also a skiing and tennis buff who divides his time between the Manhattan homes of his divorced parents, is now a precocious sophomore at Hunter College High School. Not that he's the family's only brain. His father and older brother are also life masters, and younger brother Douglas just might break Billy's record next year at age 11.