By Vern Hee
She approaches the net and the ball is blocked. Melynda Gross has blocked another ball to lead the Beatty Hornets volleyball team to another victory.
Gross is a top athlete at Beatty High at 5′ 10″. With her height and leaping ability she has dominated in basketball and volleyball these past few years.
In addition to the her athleticism, she is also a great student, but she has chosen not to go to college after graduation. Instead, Gross wants to shelve the basketball and volleyball shoes and become a model.
Her GPA is at 3.3 and she is ninth in her class, but instead of going to college as an athlete she said she just wants to do something different.
“My goal was to play college basketball my freshman year. I wanted to go to University of Connecticut. I went through my freshman year thinking I could do this. I was really cocky about it. Then I read this book about Lisa Leslie and it made me just want to go pro. Over the years I was looking at my stats and other players’ stats and reality stepped in and I thought ‘man I really got to step up my game.’ My stats just were not even close.
So I changed to modeling. I have had photo shoots over the summer. I am not with an agency yet,” said Gross.
Gross is the captain of the volleyball team this year, in her last year as a Hornet. The team may be faltering but Gross is not. She said when the team does not do well it only makes her try harder.
Gross loves all sports. She has lettered in track, basketball and volleyball in the past three years. In track, she went to state and was the state high jump champion as a sophomore.
“After my sophomore year I sat down and said, ‘Gee, what am I going to do for the rest of my high school years?’” said Gross.
Last year, Gross went with her basketball team to the state semifinals. It was their first trip in 16 years. Although it ended in Beatty losing to Wells, Gross is determined to go back this year.
Melynda tries hard to keep her grade point average up.
“Sports keeps me getting good grades. I want to be a good example for the underclassmen. I want to get A’s and B’s so I can later on go to college,” said Gross.
Her basketball coach at Beatty, Aimee Senior, did not know she had given up on the dream of basketball or college. Senior said she was a great asset to the team which started her freshman year.
“She started off on the junior varsity team. I pulled her up on the varsity squad during the Alamo game because we needed her. I had put her in the fourth quarter and we were getting beat. She turned the ball game around in the fourth quarter real quick at Alamo. I called a timeout and she said, ‘I was sitting on the bench the whole game and I knew that was going to be the first pass they were going to throw so I was ready for it.’ As a player she sat and observed the game while she was on the bench. How many freshmen actually do that,” said Senior.
Senior also recalled when Gross was a sophomore contemplating on graduating early.
“I tried to talk her out of it along with some other teachers. We told her that she was going to be too big of an asset as a senior to not play. We talked her into staying and I know she will be a huge asset this year on the basketball team,” she said.
Steve Sullivan, head volleyball coach for Beatty, said Gross is a huge asset to his team.
He said against Lund Gross had 15 kills and 5 digs and 2 blocks. Against Big Pine she had 7 kills. Against Trona she had 10 kills and 6 blocks. Against Beaver Dam she had 15 kills and 2 blocks.
“The great thing about Melynda is that she hates to lose or even let someone get the best of her whether it’s in volleyball, basketball, or track. Some people might say winning isn’t everything and that is not a good quality to have, and that’s fine for them. Yet Melynda has certain expectations of herself and her team. She may struggle sometimes to get those across to her teammates but with her she knows exactly what she wants in her performance,” remarked Sullivan.
Although Gross wants to delay college, she still wants to go. She still sees the value in a college education. Through Jerry Adcox, her track coach, she has been inspired to look into sports medicine and becoming an athletic trainer.
“Mr. Adcox teaches sports medicine. He has inspired me to go for something that I love. I want to be an athletic trainer someday after the modeling is gone. My plan is to do modeling and use the money from that to go to college,” said Gross.
Gross has spent the majority of her life in Beatty. She said she left for just one year to live in Las Vegas.
“All my life I have been in Beatty except for one. I love knowing everyone’s name in this town. This community is a family and everyone takes care of you. When I do leave, I will miss my friends and I will miss the people here. Everyone is my family. I will miss all of them,” said Gross.
Gross hopes her modeling will take her to faraway places but if not, she expects to work hard in Las Vegas until it does. She has planned out her entire life down to her retirement.
“When I retire I plan on coming back to Beatty. It’s small and out of the way and quiet. My stepdad did it and I just might come back too,” said Gross.