Melendez shares weekly MAC Specialist honor

Megan Melendez
Megan Melendez

Northern Illinois sophomore Megan Melendez (Stafford, Va./North Stafford HS) was named one of three winners of Mid-American Conference Specialist of the Week honors for women’s gymnastics Monday after winning the balance beam event for the third time this season in the Huskies’ 194.775-193.975 win at Bowling Green Saturday.

Melendez scored a 9.750 on balance beam to claim her third beam title in the Huskies’ last four meets. Her score also helped NIU’s “beam team” to its top overall score of the season with a 48.475.

NIU’s performance on beam, its last event of the meet, helped secure the team’s seventh-highest overall score in school history at 194.775. The Huskies recorded season highs on all four events to earn its highest total since March 14, 2009.

Morreale said the recognition from the league comes as a result of hours of hard work and rehabilitation by Melendez, who was sidelined all of last season by a knee injury.

“This honor is a great indication of the work Megan has put in to get back,” said NIU head coach Sam Morreale. “She brings a great mindset to the gym every day. Not only does she want to get in the lineup and compete, she wants to get up there and win. She is a perfectionist, it is not good enough for her just to make it through [a routine]. The confidence she shows on beam is a testament to her preparedness.”

A native of Stafford, Va., Melendez helped the Huskies set the tone for the meet when she scored a career-high 9.650 on uneven parallel bars, the first event of the day for NIU.

“This weekend on bars, she showed what she has been doing in practice,” he said. “She was thrown into the bars line-up a couple weeks ago, but once she gets going on bars, she can do the same thing as we’ve seen on beam. She is someone who everyone else feeds off of from a leadership standpoint. She flat-out works her tail off every day.”

Melendez, who shared the weekly award with Bowling Green’s Megan Valentini and Central Michigan’s Meaghan McWhorter, is the second Northern Illinois gymnast honored as a MAC Specialist of the Week this year.

NIU senior Ashley Guerra claimed the award Jan. 31.

The Huskies (3-3, 2-1 MAC) return to Ohio next Sunday, Feb. 19, for a dual meet versus 2011 NCAA top eight finisher Kent State. The meet gets under way at 1 p.m. (CT) in the MAC Center.

NIU will host the 2012 Mid-American Conference Gymnastics Championships on Saturday, March 24 at the NIU Convocation Center beginning at 2 p.m. All seven MAC gymnastics teams will be in action at this championship event.

For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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