Hoops, track land Hynden in Mars HOF

August 14, 2019 Cranberry Local Sports

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The Mars girls track and field team went undefeated in its first two seasons of existence, 1973-74. Pictured above is the 1974 squad. Melanie Nicklas (front row, fifth from right) was a standout runner, in both individual and relay events. She also starred for the girls basketball team and will be inducted into the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame next month.

This is the third in a series of six articles profiling the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame's Class of 2019.

CINCINNATI — During her freshman year at Mars High School, Melanie (Nicklas) Hynden was a cheerleader.

Several roadtrips to Iowa helped to change that.

Her father took her older sister, Melinda, and several of her Mars basketball teammates to a basketball camp during several summers in the early 1970s.

Melanie didn't just tag along, she took part in the camps as well.

“To Iowa and back is a long trip,” said Hynden, a native of Middlesex Township. “It's summer and we're in a station wagon with no air conditioning, but I enjoyed those camps. When you go to those things, you find out how good you are.”

Her father was impressed and urged his daughter to join the girls basketball team at Mars, which she did her sophomore year.

She started on the court for the Planets for two years and was a major contributor on the first two girls track and field squads in school history, helping Mars go undefeated her junior and senior years.

Hynden, a 1974 graduate, will be inducted into the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame in September.

The success of the track team was spurred by a young and energetic coach, Tim Tyler.

“He was really good with us, very strategic with who ran what events,” said Hynden, who starred in the 440-yard run and the 440 relay. “He used to take my pulse after I ran. I was very fit and he would marvel at how low my pulse was.”

Hynden was named Mars' Track MVP her junior year, a distinction she had first attained the previous winter as a point guard with the basketball team.

“I had a good shot and I was fast,” she said. “If we would have had a 3-point line back then, that's where I would've taken a lot of my shots. That was my range.”

The varsity basketball coach at the time was Carol DeVenzio, who would later lead the Planets to the state championship game in 1977.

“She was caring, tough, disciplined and motivating, all at the same time,” said Hynden. “If we were down at halftime, we could count on a good game plan coming back out.”

It was DeVenzio who contacted Hynden and informed her of her upcoming induction.

“I haven't seen her since 1974 and am looking forward to seeing her again,” said Hynden. “I'm very surprised and honored by my selection.”

Hynden, a graduate of DePauw University in Indiana, ran on her own until 10 years ago when she tore the meniscus in her left knee.

“I still do a lot of cardio stuff, but I miss that adrenaline rush after running.”

Hynden thanked her sister, Melinda, for supporting her inside and out of the athletic arena.

“She is not only my big sister, but has always been a role model to me.”

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Derek Pyda

Derek Pyda

- Graduated from Connellsville High School in 1996
- Graduated from Clarion University in 2000 with a Bachelors in Communications
- Have also written for Clarion News (Clarion, PA) and the Herald-Standard (Uniontown, PA)
- Started at the Butler Eagle on April 2, 2002
- Interests include sports, history and geography