By Cierra Boone
Oklahoma State Media Relations
When deciding whether or not to participate in collegiate athletics at the highest level, student-athletes face considerable challenges. Juggling the demands of academics, competitions and mandatory workouts can be daunting.
Oklahoma State’s Melinda Mercado is one of a few Big 12 student-athletes who has doubled the first-year demands by competing in two sports - soccer and basketball. What's more, she has been a major contributor to both programs.
In high school, Mercado had great success in both of sports. Her basketball team won an Oklahoma state championship and she participated on a soccer team that was a national runner-up.
When she arrived in Stillwater and began her soccer career as a Cowgirl, she hoped to continue her success in both sports.
Mercado and the Cowgirls won the school’s first Big 12 regular-season championship in 2008, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championships for the second-straight season. A defender, she started every game and was named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team and an All-America selection in soccer.
After hanging up the soccer cleats, Mercado has also provided a spark for Kurt Budke’s Cowgirl basketball team since joining that squad in late November. She is filling the role of defensive stopper and has become an important player off the bench for the OSU women’s team.
It has been an instant success story for Mercado and Oklahoma State, one that she feels has verified her choice to move to Stillwater.
“It was really comforting and I loved everything about it,” said the native of Sapulpa, Okla. “I love it here. I could not see myself at any other school. If I had not come here (originally), I know that I would have ended up transferring.“
That comfort level helped as Mercado step up in competition.
“There was a great difference between the two levels,” Mercado said of the difference between high school and college. “Bigger, stronger, and faster pretty much described everyone.”
In an age of one-sport specialization, where grade schoolars are often encouraged to pick a single sport to work at, Mercado developed into a two-sport star at a young age. She attributes her skill level to her father, Edgar. He was not only one of her biggest fans on the sidelines as a dad, but helped coach her on numerous occasions.
“It was a lot of hard work then, but it definitely paid off,” she said.
As a freshman, she has started to recognize that some of the hardest obstacles in her life may not be the physical barriers. Participating in two sports does not allow her an “off-semester” from competition. For Mercado, her year of competition stretches from August to late March.
Since Mercado has had so much success in all her athletic ventures, she values the fact that when she graduates there will be so many more opportunities that would not have been available to her otherwise.
Although just a freshman, she already forsees that future employers might not only look at grades, but what she was involved in and take notice that she is a dedicated and determined individual.
Melinda Mercado is one of a rare group of athletes, and has brought talent and great skill to both the Cowgirl soccer and basketball teams.
And the good news ... she's just getting started.