Artistic flair atop Geneva's badminton lineup

Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 5:33 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – Geneva's Melanie Burkhardt and Ann Green routinely aim to produce clever, artful badminton.

Away from the court, both Vikings rarely surrender their aspirations for elegant entertainment.

Burkhardt, a junior, was cast in the school's staging of "Fiddler on the Roof" earlier this year, while Green, a senior, plans to major in musical performance in college as an accomplished flutist.

"I think some people think you can't mix sports and arts, but I think me and Ann are good representations that you really can," Burkhardt said. "You can do both if you love to do sports and arts."

Burkhardt and Green have fit that playbill for as long as they can remember.

A regular with Geneva's various bands as well as the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, Green makes plenty of soothing racket when she's not holding one.

"All of the above," said Green, who is leaning toward attending Ohio State. "I'm in tons of music stuff. That's basically my life."

Burkhardt recently cleared more time for singing and acting when she elected not to compete for the girls tennis team in the fall. With her father, Peter, deciding not to coach the Vikings' boys this spring, the family's tennis influence at the school is shrinking.

Burkhardt, the younger sister of former Vikings standout Nora, remains active in badminton. She and Green have played with the varsity since their freshman seasons, with Burkhardt serving as understudy to Green's role as No. 1 singles player for the past three springs.

"We've just gotten to be really close friends and just love playing badminton together," Burkhardt said.

After finishing second in Saturday's Thornton Fractional South tournament, the Vikings were 16-3, marking their best start since the school resuscitated the sport in 2009. Badminton dissolved at Geneva in the 1980s due to declining interest and participation.

Green (No. 1 singles) and Burkhardt (No. 2) both finished second at TF South. Cara Birschbach and Nila Kannankeril – who Burkhardt said were involved in dance and choir, respectively – teamed for a runner-up finish, as well.

One weekend earlier, the Vikings edged Barrington for the DeKalb tournament championship.

Geneva's resounding start has sounded especially good to Green. She grew up playing recreational badminton at home, and only embraced the sport competitively when she realized she was too short to play effective high school volleyball.

Green debuted at No. 2 singles as a freshman before rising to the top spot, and sums up her ascent as going "from the backyard to hardcore."

Vikings coach Pat Fischer, a former St. Viator and Illinois Wesleyan tennis athlete, has found Green, Burkhardt and No. 3 singles player Nicole Schneider capable of beating one another on any given day.

He hasn't seen any reason for realignment, however, on a team harmoniously seeking its third consecutive Upstate Eight Conference River Division regular season crown.

"You're never going to find a better group of girls to talk to," Fischer said.

That's especially reassuring given Burkhardt's occasional pre-practice habits.

If there's music playing during warm-ups, she's been known to sing.

"I think it's fun," Burkhardt said. "I get to do theater and stuff and then do this, as well."

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