Coach-ng, Runn-ng, and Study-ng Law
Mel is currently a 3L at the University of Miami School of Law and a USATF and NCHSAA certified coach. She started running in high school when her cheerleading coach suggested that the squad improve their endurance during the off season, but she did not consider a future in competitive running until she realized that her untapped running potential was likely greater than her cheerleading future. In her brief high school cross-country career, Mel amassed All-State and All-Conference accolades, was named Conference Runner of the Year, team MVP, and to this day maintains the school record at Arendell Parrott Academy for the female 5K cross-country run. Although Mel was offered a collegiate cheerleading scholarship, she ultimately turned it down to sign with the Gamecocks XC/Track program and pursue higher education on scholarship at the University of South Carolina Honors College.
As an undergraduate student-athlete, Mel proudly represented the Gamecocks in intercollegiate endurance competitions and earned a varsity letter in each of her four years as a Gamecock while balancing an intense academic schedule. In 2017, Mel graduated magna cum laude from the University of South Carolina Honors College with honors, with a BSBA in International Business and a BSBA in Economics from the Darla Moore School of Business, alongside a BA in Spanish and a minor in Latin American Studies from the College of Arts and Sciences. Mel explored authentic versions of post-Columbian literature in performing research for her honors thesis, Ahondando en la Antropología Sobre los Mensajeros Incas: Una Perspectiva Contada Desde Una Chasqui Moderna, thus successfully proving that authors of ancient texts did not over-exaggerate the athletic abilities of Incan messengers, also known as the “chaskis.” She proffered evidence gathered from herself and other contemporary elite runners to satisfactorily conclude that a relay team of elite runners (as described by Guamán Poma) could easily transport a live conch from the Pacific Ocean to Cusco, the capital of the Incan Empire, across a mountainous route with over 3000m of elevation gain (as described by Garcilaso de la Vega).
During her gap year between undergrad and law school, Mel used the fall cross-country season to obtain her NCHSAA coaching certification and volunteer as an assistant cross-country coach at a nearby high school. Her long time running mentor, Coach Charlie “Choo” Justice, encouraged her to explore the sport from a new perspective, and she hasn’t looked back since! While serving as an assistant high school cross country coach, Mel trained for a trail marathon to stay humble and deepen her connection with the sport. She resolved to pursue future opportunities to utilize her mentorship and leadership abilities in order to inspire athletes’ development of a healthy mentality towards competition, goal-setting, and general fitness. Following the cross country season, Mel hopped on a plane to Perú to serve as a volunteer coordinator with Seeds of Hope-Perú, where she was able to train at altitude as well as inspire younger student-athletes to pursue their academic and athletic goals.
After her return from Perú, Mel matriculated to law school at the University of Miami School of Law. During the first few weeks of pure academia, she realized that she missed coaching and spoke with the Miami Hurricanes cross-country coach to inquire about volunteering with the team. Shortly thereafter, she started working with the varsity distance squad as a graduate student-manager. In that capacity, Mel mentored collegiate student-athletes by sharing her personal experiences as a former collegiate student-athlete and showcasing a positive attitude towards the sport--even at 6:00 AM after frequent late-night study sessions. Moreover, Mel served as both academic and athletic inspiration for undergraduate student-athletes at the University of Miami.
Last summer, STRIVE Trips requested that Coach Mel work as a high school student leader in Perú. There, Mel capitalized on opportunities to mentor program participants, teach students about indigenous culture, take lots of photos with alpacas, and share her personal experiences as a coach and athlete in addition to the lessons that she learned from directly confronting each challenge.
Presently, Mel is a recreational runner who wants to utilize every opportunity to share her passion for running with others. She represents Coach Choo Elite TC when she’s not reading case law, taking photographs, writing law review articles, or guiding athletes in their personal quest for athletic excellence.