Oct. 12, 2012
McCalle Feller's biological mother had a plan for her daughter, even if she didn't know until the day she gave birth that she was pregnant.
It was early August 1993, in Dillon, Mont. A young woman visited the hospital complaining of stomach pains. Less than 24 hours later McCalle Feller was unleashed on the unsuspecting hospital staff.
She wasn't talking out of the womb, which might be hard to believe for any of the dozens (hundreds?) of people on Montana's campus the gregarious Feller has introduced herself to in her first month and a half in Missoula, but it's easy to picture her between screams seeing someone new in the delivery room and saying, "Hi, I'm McCalle. What do you do here?"
A college athlete herself, the new mom knew what she wanted for the daughter she was about to give up for adoption. The same thing she had had: An opportunity to be raised around sports. If the dad was a basketball coach and if there was an older brother thrown in, all the better.
Presented four portfolios by the adoption agency, the mother picked Jerry and Michelle Feller and their son Jourdan, six years his new sister's senior.
McCalle Feller's biological mother's plan had its roots.
Just four days old, Feller was off to her new hometown of Lewistown. Unlike other adoption stories, this was not one based on a hidden past.
"It was never a big thing growing up," Feller says. "I always knew I was adopted, so it wasn't like it was a big secret. I just grew up with my mom and dad being my mom and dad, and my brother being my brother."
It was the perfect incubator to hatch the plan. The right genetics crossed with a household that raised its new addition on basketball.
It didn't hurt that two of Feller's role models growing up, two of Fergus High's finest, would both go on to star at Montana and become 1,000-point scorers for the Lady Griz: Katie Edwards and Sonya Rogers.
"I looked up to Katie and Sonya so much," Feller says. "I just knew that if they were playing for the Lady Griz, Montana had to be a good team. That's probably why I'm such a diehard Griz fan today."
It wasn't just the Fergus High basketball program that benefited from Feller's talents. The Golden Eagles won Class A state volleyball titles when Feller was a freshman, junior and senior, and in track she was a three-time state high jump champion, with a javelin title thrown in as a senior.
That success led to opportunities to compete in all three sports at the college level. Montana track and field coach Brian Schweyen extended a partial scholarship offer, but if Feller had accepted she would have been ineligible to play for the Lady Griz, and that would have been the end of the dream.
Then Robin Selvig stepped in and offered something less tangible than a track and field scholarship but something much more valuable: an opportunity.
With his scholarships for 2012-13 already accounted for, Selvig offered Feller the next best thing. She could join the Lady Griz program as a non-scholarship player her first season and, with four seniors on the team, potentially play her way into one of the program's 15 scholarships for her second year and beyond.
Done, and it came with a bonus. Her status as a basketball player will allow her to compete for Schweyen's program during its spring outdoor season, though with no financial support.
"I decided that if I have an opportunity to play myself into a full scholarship for basketball, why not try it? Better to chase the dream and be poor for a while," Feller says.
"I love track, but my passion is basketball, so I'm going to give it my all until I don't have any more to give."
In the last month and a half, Feller has discovered her basketball nirvana. It's been total immersion, Lady Griz style. Lifting, individual workouts, film sessions, team practices. Feller's only complaint? That there isn't more of it.
"I've never played with people who really know what they're doing until now," says Feller. "It always used to be me knowing more (than my teammates). Now I'm at the opposite end, but I can feel myself getting better every day.
"A day without basketball just feels so empty to me now. I would never want to be anywhere else than right here, right now."
In March the high-energy Feller will take that enthusiasm for all things Griz to the track. In basketball her goal is to earn a scholarship and have a successful career playing for the Lady Griz. She has lofty goals for her second sport as well.
"I want to improve my high jump by at least two inches, if not more, and I want to improve my javelin by 10 feet every year," she says, maybe knowing, maybe not, that those marks could make her a Big Sky Conference champion.
"I like track because you can beat your marks. You can see in inches and feet how much better you are compared to the day or week or month before."
But doesn't she think she'll need a break come March, when the grind of the six-month basketball season is done? Wouldn't a day-planner that wasn't packed from sun up to sun down by nice?
"I don't know what that would be like. Is that even possible? How do people do that? I don't know what I would do without athletics. That's four hours of my day when I wouldn't have anything to do," she says in her unique staccato style, firing off the previous five sentences in 3.7 seconds.
And so the plan that was envisioned in the delivery room in Dillon so many years ago, the one whose roots and growth came in Lewistown, is set to enter is flowering stage with the Lady Griz. Somewhere in western Montana McCalle Feller's biological mother can watch her plan coming to fruition.
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