Roberts does it all at Emory
Emory University photo Billings West grad Melissa Roberts batted .442 with 40 RBIs in 40 games this year for Emory University, which begins play today in the NCAA Division III national softball tourney in Salem, Va.

ATLANTA, Ga. — In these times of tutors and athletes' academic centers, e-mails and professorial back-bending, Emory University offers left fielder Melissa Roberts.

She of the .442 batting average and the 3.9 GPA solves her academic dilemmas using a flashlight and a sports bra.

Positioning the flashlight through the strap of the sports bra makes it possible to study for a human psychology exam while riding in a dark van on the way back from a softball game.

Roberts is a neuroscience and behavioral biology major, a resident adviser and president of the Varsity Athletic Council, and in her "spare" time she plays softball. And plays it very well.

The 1999 Billings West grad has helped turn Emory's fledgling program (7-14 in its inaugural year in 1999) into a 36-4 contender, ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division III and beginning play in the Division III national tournament today for the second straight year.

At graduation last Monday, Roberts received the highest honor given to an Emory student: the Marion Brittain Award for service "rendered without expectation of reward or recognition."

That could apply to her softball career, too.

When Roberts first visited the Atlanta campus in August 1999, her facility tour consisted of coach Penny Siqueiros pointing in the direction of a swamp where a softball field would soon be built. When Roberts chose Emory over Tufts University for its combination of academics, softball and warm weather, a Billings TV station thought she was on her way to Embry-Riddle, the flight school.

"I just figured I'd try to make the most of wherever I was," Roberts said.

Roberts stuck with softball while six of eight in her freshman class quit. She has made one B in four years, in European history. She will "atone" for that as one of four Emory students chosen to study next year at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Just a few weeks ago, Roberts listed in her daybook: meeting about postgraduate scholarship, meeting with residence hall director, interview with student newspaper and dinner with outgoing exchange students from Scotland. The schedule didn't list her two hours of class and her softball practice.

This summer, Roberts will volunteer for an inner-city biking program and handle medical school entrance exams and applications.

She'll go to Scotland in the fall with hopes of interviewing for medical school during the holiday break.

But first there's softball. Emory will face Wartburg, Iowa, at 4:30 p.m. Mountain today in the first round of the Division III national tournament. The championship game is Monday, with a second championship game, if necessary, on Tuesday.

Roberts started all 40 games for the Eagles this spring, batting .442 with 20 doubles, 40 RBIs and a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.

Last week, Roberts didn't know if she could make it to both graduation and the Eagles' regional tournament. The double-duty was made possible when she learned Emory would host the regional.

"I'd have felt bad dishonoring the people who gave (the award) to me, but I made a four-year commitment to softball," she said. "I wouldn't, couldn't leave it (the tournament)."

That she was able to do both was only fitting.

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