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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Planning a Second Chance

Softball: After missing out on 1996 Olympics, Chellevold is making impact with national team.

July 19, 1998|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was the summer of 1995 and Amy Chellevold's achievements were giving her daily planner quite a workout.

In less than two months, Chellevold set two NCAA records during her senior softball season, graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in exercise and sports science, landed a job with Playtex as a sales representative in San Francisco and was selected to the USA national softball team.

It was a fun, exciting, albeit demanding time in Chellevold's life, but she was managing all of it quite nicely.

Until, the unplanned.

Along came several practice days, late additions to the national team schedule.

For someone who just landed a great job with a major company, time was a commodity that belonged to her employer.

"Here I am, brand new to the work force and wasn't able to get it off," said Chellevold, who graduated from Thousand Oaks High in 1990.

Chellevold turned down an invitation to play in the Olympic Festival in Denver and backed out of her commitment to play for the national team in the Superball Classic.

Small concessions perhaps for the average just-graduated college athlete, but this was a decision that possibly cost Chellevold a spot on America's first Olympic softball team.

"I felt like I passed up a huge opportunity," she said. "Had I had to do it over again, I would have tried harder to persuade my bosses to let me go."

Three years later--and 2 1/2 years after quitting Playtex to become an assistant coach at Arizona--Chellevold has come full circle. A month ago, Chellevold was selected to play for the 1998 national team, which will attempt to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive title at the Women's World Championship in Fujinomiya City, Japan, beginning Monday through July 30.

Eleven of Chellevold's national teammates were members of the 1996 Olympic gold medal team, including Taft High graduate Sheila Cornell-Douty and Buena graduate Kim Maher.

Although Chellevold, 26, has a few more hoops to jump through to make the 2000 Olympic team, she is one of 15 women closest to the front of the line.

"Now I'm in the loop and I'm going to do everything I can to be on the 15-player roster for 2000," Chellevold said.

She has proved so far that she belongs. Before leaving for Japan on July 9, the national team played three four-game series against all-star teams in Ohio, Tennessee and Oregon. The national team went undefeated in 12 games, outscoring opponents, 88-1.

Chellevold, a two-time All-American first baseman at Arizona and the Wildcats' first four-time All-Pacific 10 selection, has been instrumental in the national team's success.

Playing in nine of the 12 games preceding the World Championships, Chellevold batted .480 (12 of 25), scored eight runs and stole four bases.

"My goal is to get a hit a game and sometimes you get lucky and get more than one," she said.

Chellevold left the college game as the NCAA career leader with 371 hits and 252 runs. She had a .415 career average. From 1992-95, Arizona went 232-24, won two NCAA national titles and three Pac-10 championships.

"That kind of experience brings a lot to a program," said Arizona Coach Mike Candrea, who promoted Chellevold from interim status after the Wildcats won the national title in 1996.

A true left-hander, Chellevold continues to make her mark on the softball world as one of the finest slap hitters in the game.

Blessed with excellent speed, Chellevold has moved to the outfield on the national team to allow Cornell-Douty--the top hitter of the 1996 Olympics--to remain at first base.

It's a move Chellevold is more than happy to make.

"I have a lot more experience at first base, but I'm comfortable in the outfield," she said.

Chellevold is older than half her teammates, but she shows no signs of slowing down.

"You look at professional baseball players, they're playing well into their 30s," she said.

"I could logically play for 12 more years. . . I won't, but I could."

Instead, Chellevold is concentrating heavily on the next 14 months. In October 1999, the Olympic team will be announced.

"My big-time goal is to make an Olympic spot," she said. "It's in my hands. If I play well, it's in my future."

And in her planner, to be sure.

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