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updated: 3/22/2012 2:48 PM

Vernon Hills' Meline vends quality in all activities

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  • Vernon Hills senior Megan Meline is looking for a sweet finish to a busy senior sporting year.

       Vernon Hills senior Megan Meline is looking for a sweet finish to a busy senior sporting year.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

The temptation is so salivatingly great, and Megan Meline accepts the offer.

Given permission by her boss, Neal Kahalnik, to grab a bag (chips, cookies) or bar (candy) or can (pop), or two, of any of the items she stocks in his vending machines, she inevitably snatches a yellow bag of goodies with her trusty hands.

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"I'm always grabbing peanut M & M's," Meline says with a guilty grin.

Who can blame her?

Besides, for as much as the Vernon Hills senior does -- school, volleyball, cheerleading, softball, job -- she's allowed some snacks to keep her energy up, no? When not busy with any school-related activities, she works part-time for Kahalnik, a former coach of hers and the dad of her former softball teammate Paige Kahalnik.

Vernon Hills' "Meline Machine" fills vending machines, with Kahalnik allowing the responsible student-athlete to make her own hours. Call it another way the three-sporter uses her impressive hand-eye-coordination skills.

"I love telling people and seeing their reaction," Meline says with a laugh. "They're like, 'What? You fill vending machines?' "

She has another temptation. So far, however, the lover of M & M's is not biting.

Meline, the Cougars' best pitcher since her freshman year on varsity, who's coming off the best statistical season for any softball player in the program's history, does not plan to play softball in college.

Mind you, she's 5 feet 11 with a skill package that, based on last season's statistics, suggests she boasts the ability to run (school-record 37 stolen bases), hit for both average (. 495) and power (3 homers, 10 doubles, 7 triples) and pitch (240 strikeouts in 177 innings). Her explosiveness is also evident when she spikes a volleyball or performs tumbling in cheerleading.

"Ideally, she's our No. 3 or 4 hitter," Vernon Hills coach Steve Korney says. "I may have her (bat) No. 2 a little bit this year, as well, just because she gets on base so well.

"Her skill is phenomenal."

But for as much as Meline loves her after-school job, she desires to do more in life. She is motivated to achieve greater "sweets."

So, last week, she was planning on officially accepting her offer from Illinois, where she plans to study business and not be an athlete.

"I really want to branch out. I want to join a business fraternity," says Meline, the daughter of Mike and Sara, whose youngest daughter, eighth-grader Dana, is also a multisport athlete. "I might get involved in Greek life. All I've heard is that internships are really important when you're going into business during your undergrad years. I'm looking at it realistically. If I'm going to play (softball) in college, am I going to play professionally afterward? No. There's no way.

"I'm not Jennie Finch," she adds, laughing. "Not even a little."

Not that Meline isn't tempted by the idea of firing Finch-like fastballs at the collegiate level.

She looked into softball opportunities at Case Western, Washington U. and Western Illinois. She emailed the coaches at Northwestern and UW-Madison, too. But no one offered her mega money. Schools, especially at the Division I level, for whatever reason, weren't overly interested in her.

It didn't help her cause that she let a lot of people know early in the recruiting process that she wasn't completely committed to playing softball in college.

"Looking at the pros and cons," Meline says, "it just wasn't an advantageous situation at all."

She's not bitter.

"I guess it's still all a possibility," Meline says of accepting an offer to play if someone, say, offered her an attractive package after watching her play this spring.

Korney, for one, respects his star player's decision if she sticks with her game plan of being strictly a student in college.

"I think she knows what's best for her," he says.

For the short-term, Meline's goal is simply getting back in the pitching circle. In Vernon Hills' season opener against Palatine last week, she served as the Cougars' flex player, relegated to only playing first base because of a left hamstring injury.

After helping Vernon Hills' cheerleading team place fourth in the state this winter, she was getting ready to perform with her teammates at a school assembly.

"I hadn't done my jumps for a few days because my hamstring had really been bothering me," Meline says. "I think part of (the injury) was (due to) softball, striding for pitching. Right before the assembly, I tried to simulate a jump. I kicked as I went up, as hard as I could, and I heard just this awful, like, pop. It was really painful."

She then performed in the assembly and aggravated the hamstring.

"I'm just glad that I'm able to jog," she says.

She's happy, too, that she challenged herself to go out for cheerleading her junior year. Call it part of that "branching out" that she likes to do.

"I was like, 'You know what? Why not be a three-sport athlete as an upperclassman?' " Meline says. "I'm really glad that I did. I made a lot of friends. State was such a phenomenal experience, and I'm hoping that I can bring that to the (softball) team this year.

"I'm just hoping I can get healthy fast," she adds. "It would be so disappointing if after three years (of playing varsity softball), cheerleading is what takes me out of the game."

If you're around town and drop some coins in a vending machine, look next to it. You might see a Vernon Hills softball poster, complete with posed players and season schedule. The posters are something new for the Cougars this season.

"We're hoping it'll get people to come to our games," Meline says. "But we look pretty intense. So I don't know if it will attract people or scare them away."

Better go watch the girls play.

It might be your last chance to see Megan Meline do her thing.

jaguilar@dailyherald.com

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