NAPPANEE — Following her record-setting victory in diving at the Northridge Sectional last Saturday, Melissa Berger accepted her medal, posed for a few pictures, hugged her NorthWood teammates and a few competitors and literally ran out the door.
No, it wasn’t because Berger didn’t want to see the rest of the meet, but rather she had the second part of her busy Saturday to get to.
Berger is also a member of the Indiana Ultimate Cheer squad that competed (and finished second) that night in Chicago.
Crazy? Perhaps, but to Berger — a four-sport athlete at NorthWood — it’s just another day in the life.
“It was a busy day, but it was a lot of fun too,” Berger admitted. “I’ve gotten used to the hectic pace and still being able to concentrate on the sport I’m competing in.”
On Saturday, that sport will be diving, where she’ll be competing in the IHSAA Girls Swimming and Diving State Finals at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis.
This will be Berger’s third straight trip to the finals and her best chance at winning a state title. Last year, Berger reached the dive finals and came home 16th.
“It was great to reach the final round, but placing 16th was disappointing,” Berger said. “This year I feel a lot more confident going in and I feel good about where I am with my diving.”
Last Saturday, Berger claimed the title with a pool and sectional point total of 474.40. She then finished second on Tuesday in the South Bend Regional.
Melissa has been coached this season by her father, Doug Berger, who has served as an unpaid assistant for NorthWood this season.
“Having dad coach has worked really well,” Melissa said. “He’s a former coach and swimmer, so he knows his stuff and he knows me so well that if I have a bad dive or I’m struggling, he knows exactly what to say to get me going again.”
Berger is also a member of the cheerleading squad at NorthWood, as well as a regional qualifier in both cross country and track (pole vault).
Athletic director Norm Sellers admits that watching Berger through her four years at NorthWood has been amazing.
“When I was in school, playing three sports was pretty normal, but times have really changed because of the demands we put on kids in the summer,” Sellers noted. “To compete in four sports, especially at the level she does, is really something.
“Melissa may not be the most gifted athlete, but she certainly gets the most out of her talent,” Sellers said. “She works hard and is really driven to succeed.”
In addition to advancing in state competition in her three sports at NorthWood, Berger’s competitive cheer team is also one of the best in the country — finishing 10th in the nation last year at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
“Last year was great, but our goal this year is a top-five finish,” Berger said. “I believe we have a great routine and we really can’t wait to get back to Orlando.”
After her high school diving career ends on Saturday, Berger will begin track practice next week for her senior year in the pole vault. After that, it’s college, where she remains uncommitted both for which school and which sport (diving or cheer) she’ll compete in.
However, Sellers remains confident that whatever she chooses, Berger will succeed.
“It will be great to see what she can do when she focuses on just one thing,” Sellers said. “I always tell kids that they’ll be surprised on how much better they’ll be once they get to college because their total concentration is on school and one sport.”
With the success she’s had as a four-sport high school athlete, that’s a great thought for Berger’s future coaches.