Melissa Norville has never let any barriers get in her way.
As a child, one of her favorite things to do was to hurdle the concrete barriers frequently used during traffic construction projects.
“I used to run and jump over those all the time,” the Batavia graduate said. “It was just always fun.”
Norville is still having fun running and jumping over things as a senior at Illinois College in Jacksonville. At the recent NCAA Division III national indoor track and field championships at North Central College in Naperville, she won three events – the long jump, the triple jump, and the 60-meter hurdles.
Norville won the long jump with a best effort of 19 feet, 8 inches, more than eight inches farther than her closest competitor. Her winning triple jump of 411/4 feet was almost two feet longer than the best effort of the second-place finisher.
In the hurdles, Norville blazed to victory in 8.52 seconds, the fastest mark in NCAA Division III indoor history.
“In order for me to win all three I had to PR in hurdles,” Norville said. “Everyone always steps up their game in nationals.”
Norville holds the Divisoin III indoor record for the long jump and the second-longest triple jump (41-7) in Division III.
Her efforts during the season made her an easy choice for the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division III Indoor Track and Field Women’s Field Athlete of the Year.
The outdoor season is now under way, giving Norville a chance to shine in even more events.
“My favorite is the 100 hurdles,” she says. “I enjoy running and jumping, so I guess putting those together is just a lot of fun for me.”
Norville won the 100 hurdles at the Washington University Invitational last weekend in St. Louis in 14.19 seconds. She also took first in the long jump (19-21/2) and triple jump (39-81/2).
“If I could win all three in the outdoor [championships], that would be great,” Norville said.
She also could be a factor in the 200 dash, but she’s downplaying any speculation about a possible fourth championship.
“The 200 finals will be the last event after I do two hurdle races and 12 jumps,” she said. “I don’t want to get anything less than All-American [finishing eighth or better].”
During a successful prep career at Batavia, Norville was recruited by larger universities like Wisconsin and Grand Valley State (Mich.), but there was little doubt she would wind up at Illinois College. Her parents and multiple siblings preceded her at the school.
Norville doesn’t regret not being able to compete at a higher level.
“I think one things that’s a positive going to a Division III school is I was able to play volleyball,” she points out. “I want to do what I enjoy and I’m happy that I get the choice here.”
A middle blocker, the 6-foot Norville ranked third on the team in kills with 180 and first in blocks with 72 in 25 matches for the Lady Blues, who finished the season 12-13.
Norville’s sister Tamar is a freshman at Illinois College and also a member of the track squad.
“That’s exciting,” the elder Norville says. “I hadn’t seen her compete since she was a freshman in high school. … I can help her as much as I can before I graduate.”
That graduation will be coming soon, and Norville is not sure about her plans after that. A psychology major, she has applied to five grad schools and hopes to eventually go into sports psychology or marriage and family counseling.
In the meantime, she hopes to continue her track career, observing that her best jumping efforts are close to U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying standards.
“I’m going to train and see how far I can go with it,” Norville says.
It’s just another barrier she’ll enjoy clearing.
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To suggest local college athletes to be featured in future columns, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.