Plan B turned out to be A-OK for Karlie Mellott.
The Sterling High School senior, who had made a verbal commitment to play softball at Purdue last fall, will instead continue her athletic and academic career at Cornell University. She signed a national letter of intent Tuesday to attend the Ivy League university of nearly 20,000 students located in Ithaca, N.Y.
“I never really considered myself to be an Ivy League candidate,” Mellott said, “but everything just sort of worked out that way. I’m just so excited for this opportunity.”
Mellott, who was the Sauk Valley Media co-player of the year in 2012 with Milledgeville’s Emily Bush, was once headed to Purdue. That changed when the Boilermakers’ coach at the time, Kim Maher, lost her job, and the new coach, Kim Schuette, did not honor the offers made to three of five recruits, including Mellott.
Mellott’s road to Cornell began last July in Reno, Nev., where she was playing in a summer travel team tournament. A Cornell representative was there, liked what he saw, and expressed interest.
Mellott and her mother, Karla, ventured to Cornell for an official visit in late August. They toured the campus, watched a softball practice and met with prospective future teammates and head coach Dick Blood. She also sat in on an engineering session, to give her a taste of what academic life would be like as a chemical engineering major.
“I loved it,” Mellott said. “Sometimes you get a feel for where you’re supposed to be at. I got that feeling at Purdue, and I also got it at Cornell. They value you for your athletic skills, but more than that was for academics. I really think it’s the perfect fit for me.”
Mellott carries a 4.23 grade point average at Sterling and is ranked third in a senior class of 220 students. Ivy League schools do not give athletic scholarships, and Mellott was unsure of what her aid package will be.
Cornell’s softball team has finished first or second in the Ivy League 13 of the last 16 seasons. In 2012, the Big Red posted a 25-23 record, including 15-5 in conference play. Blood has a career mark of 588-297-2 in 19 seasons.
Mellott will be a middle infielder at Cornell, either at shortstop or second base.
“I just want to earn my spot on the team,” she said.
Mellott is Sterling’s shortstop, and an offensive force in the leadoff position. In 2012, she batted .587, with an on-base percentage of .656 and a slugging percentage of .971. She scored 55 runs, drove in 34, and smacked 13 doubles, six triples and five home runs.
Mellott was a key figure in Sterling advancing to the state softball tournament for the first time this past spring. A host of key seniors graduated, but the Golden Warriors still figure to be a force when softball season rolls around in 3 months.
“We’ll have a lot of new faces in there,” she said, “but we’ve got a lot of talent to work with. It’s going to be a different dynamic this season, to see who steps up to fill to roles we have. I can’t wait to get going.”
FYI: 2012 Sauk Valley Media co-player of the year in softball. ... Helped Warriors earn berth in Class 3A state tournament. ... Will play softball at Cornell University in 2013