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Melgaard hasn’t missed a beat

February 22, 2007

Chantele Melgaard surprised many when she stepped back onto the hardwood this season to finish her career as a Falcon.

After sitting out last season to give birth to and care for her daughter, Jordan Marie Melgaard-Torrez, she could just as easily have called it a career, but she was determined to play her senior season at UW-River Falls.

Melgaard has picked up right where she left off in 2004-05, providing the team with a guard who can both score and be a defensive stopper.

This season, Melgaard has played in all 25 games, starting the first 14, and averaging 26.2 minutes per contest. She is averaging 7.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.5 steals and is shooting a career-high 32 percent from the field. She scored a season-high 19 points against Macalester on Dec. 13, in just her eighth game back. Twice she has been named the Falcons Player of the Week.

Melgaard has helped guide the Falcons to a 15-10 regular season record, including a 9-7 record in the WIAC.

“It’s really exciting to be back,” Melgaard said. “I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I got back on the court.”

Only six weeks after she gave birth to Jordan, Melgaard picked up the basketball again and began preparing for a comeback.

There aren’t many people out there who would challenge themselves with such a daunting task, but Melgaard’s love for the game is what drove her to finish out her career.

“She has basketball through her core as a person,” head coach Cindy Hovet said.

Melgaard said she knew it would be a tough journey to get back into playing shape, but she was very focused on getting it done.

She is quick to point out that without a strong support system of friends and family, none of this would be possible. She gives a lot of thanks to her boyfriend, Dan Torrez, and her parents, Chip and Dawn, for being there for her.

“They show their support by, not just helping with Jordan, but by coming to my games and cheering me on,” Melgaard said.

Her teammates, coaches and trainers have done their part to be there in times of need as well. Jordan has become quite popular with the team and has been a frequent attendee of the team’s practices and games.

“The team is always fighting over who gets to hold her,” Melgaard said.

Like her mother, Jordan has grown quite fond of basketball. A smile goes across her face and her eyes light up every time she sees a basketball.
“She’s already becoming a gym rat,” Melgaard joked.

Hovet said she is also impressed by Jordan’s love of the game.

“She’s the only baby I’ve seen whose favorite toy is a basketball,” Hovet added.

Melgaard’s return to the court has meant a lot to her teammates and said they are amazed by the amount of determination and perseverance she has shown in the last year.

“Words can’t express how happy the team was when we found out she was going to come back this year,” teammate Melanie Preiner said. “I know I definitely feel more comfortable and confident when she is on the court.”

Juggling athletics, school and being a mother is no small task, but Melgaard has been able to do just that, even though in the beginning things were not easy.

“After spending every day with Jordan this summer, it was frustrating the first couple of weeks having to leave her,” Melgaard said.
Like every mother, Melgaard had to adapt to being without Jordan while she was busy with other things.

“It was tough for her early on, but it has been tremendous seeing her grow into being such a great mother,” Hovet said.

Melgaard’s teammates know that it is a difficult task to be a student-athlete, but add being a mother into the mix and things become quite a bit more challenging.

“It truly is amazing that she can handle being a full-time student, a full-time athlete and a full-time mom,” Preiner said. “The sacrifices that she has made to play on the team again go to show the strong-willed and determined person she is.”

Hovet agrees with Preiner’s views of Melgaard.

“She is proof that if you want something bad enough it can happen,” Hovet said.

In Melgaard’s senior season at Lakeville High School in Minnesota, her team went a perfect 28-0 and won the class 4A state title. That is a tough act to follow, but the hurdles she has jumped and her accomplishments in her collegiate senior season have got to rank right up there.

Melgaard said she is graduating this spring with a degree in health and human performance and coaching. She plans on working in a health club as a physical trainer someday.